Saturday, April 01, 2006

MySpace deleting my profile, the network effect and fearmongers

MySpace removed 200,000 "objectionable" profiles from its site recently. This is really nothing more than a PR gesture and most likely a response to the growing bad press. They apparently have 66 million users and add 250,000 new ones every day. The ridiculously small number of profiles they just deleted doesn't change anything about the site. And no, they didn't really delete my profile, I would never have any objectionable content online... =)

If you ask me, this is the beginning of the end for MySpace. Social network offerings aimed at youths are notoriously slippery. This demographic tends to seek out things that are off the mainstream and any sort of regulations or restrictions will trigger a mass migration. Look at P2P software as an example.

The owners of MySpace are essentially screwed. If they keep limiting content, they will alienate the user base. If they don't, the bad press will shine so much light on the site that the youths will get nervous. Finally, uncontrolled growth is going to kick this puppy into the mainstream anyways, increasing the desire for the herd to find newer, cooler pastures.

MySpace will decline as fast as it grew once the signal to leave is triggered. Here's why: If you offer content online, you fantasize about gaining network effects for your offering. (The network effect is the increase in value for a particular thing as more people use the thing. For example, the classic example is a phone. The phone is not very useful if only one or two people have it. It gains incredible value as more people join the network.) You have to get just the right people to start using your offering and bring in everyone else. These people, however, also control how long the network effect lasts. If key people leave or stop supporting the offering, the network falls apart (Can you buy VHS anymore?).

As a brand manager for multiplayer online games, I frequently make small offerings of livestock and virgin ..ahem olive oil to wish for a good network effect. I don't have quite the same pressures as big MMORPGs, where migration is commonplace. However, I still play by the same rules and can use the same tools. Some examples of these tools: Guilds are tremendously valuable, so are "invite a friend" incentives and organized group play is very critical. You'll see me pulling these from the toolbox often. As we really start getting into things for Acclaim, you'll start to notice the things implemented because of trying to gain network effect. Some will work, others won't. But have no doubt, the business of multiplayer online games depends upon it.

On a side note: some guy is offering a "free booklet" to help parents battle the "MySpace dangers". He promises it's free but I don't think people realize how much your legitimate email or home address is worth. Do you really think that free sweepstakes for the car in the mall is without strings? I'm not going to link him here, instead, if you want to see his site, Google: "MySpace Dangers". You can then click the paid link he has there and cost him at least $0.15 per click. hehe ::evil grin::

Grrr, people that take advantage of fears really tick me off. While I'm venting, here's another example: attack shelters. If armageddon comes, I really don't think I want to spend the rest of my life in your stupid shelter.

Financial Times article about MySpace here, via MarketingVox

No comments: