Me and we media
Why are websites like MySpace and Facebook so popular? One reason, according to Duncan Watts (A Columbia University sociologist), is that they allow people to see and be seen. In other words, social networking sites are less about networking and more about voyeurism and exhibitionism. They are also about convenience. It is much easier to keep in touch with friends virtually than physically, and in reality sites such as these are just ways for people to hang out and chat together. However, the main reason for these sites popularity is probably the fact that teenagers tend to measure friendship in terms of quantity than quality. Sites like MySpace allow users to build confidence by creating their own worlds in which factors such as looks can be closely controlled. Add to this an element of peer pressure and it’s easy to see why these sites are so popular. MySpace now has 73 million users while Facebook, although much smaller, was the second fastest-growing website in the world in 2005. The sites have a strong community feel and also tap into user-generated content. However, it’s eyeball counts that ultimately interest established media companies like Newscorp, which paid US$580 million for MySpace, and NBC Universal, which paid US $600 million for iVillage. Online advertising revenue has grown by about 50% since 2002 but magazine and newspaper ad revenues are almost static. Moreover, according to a PEW Internet study, more than 50% of Americans have now uploaded some kind of digital content onto the Internet. So will the old media companies die in the face of such new media competition? Unlikely. The smarter players will either acquire sites like MySpace or build Facebook characteristics into existing products.