Sunday, July 10, 2011

2013 PROMO: You are not a customer of Facebook. You are the product.

Facebook, like lots of other media, sells eyeballs

Or clicks. Or referrals. Of course you know that. You don't pay anything to Facebook for the services it provides. The customers of Facebook, the people who pay for what Facebook offers, are advertisers. And what Facebook sells them is your eyes, your attention.   That same story goes back at least to the golden age of radio. Back then, they were selling ears.
That is why Facebook does not want avatars.  Advertisers don't want avatars.  They only want to pay for real people, because people buy things.
Facebook and other social media have made a profitable change in the radio-TV  business plan:
how to produce the content.
The radio stations paid people to produce the content needed to get the audience. So did television.   Facebook is merely offering social interaction.  That brings the cost of content way down.
Now you see why social media business models are so attractive to business.  Free content.  All you have to do is draw the crowds.
The first sign of bad advice is that it starts with, "All you have to do is..."  
What you really have to do is keep ahead of your competitors.  
Of course it's hard. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.   
The Second Life story
Second Life is also a form of social media.  Does it or can it use the Facebook model?    There are free accounts.  The free account plan probably started under the freemium concept rather than the eyeball-as-product model.
Freemium is a business model that works by offering a game, product or service free of charge (such as software, web services or other) while charging a premium for advanced features, functionality, or related products and services.[1][2] The word "freemium" is a portmanteau combining the two aspects of the business model: "free" and "premium".
But could Second Life use the eyeball model?  At first glance, the obvious issue is cost per pair of eyeballs. Creating a virtual reality is expensive compared to the services offered by Facebook.  But does all the interaction have to be in a virtual reality?  Well, no.  As a matter of fact, right now a lot of social interaction among people in Second Life goes on elsewhere.
 A lot of creative videos are made in Second Life.  But they are exported to places like YouTube.  That presents them to a much larger audience.  More eyeballs to sell.  But the video hosts get the eyeballs.
 Look at Second Life as a place for shared creativity.  "Shared creativity tool." Rod Humble gets it.   
Parts of that shared creativity are shifting to Facebook, LinkedIn, Livestream, and YouTube.  And the upcoming Google+ could develop into another major avenue of creative collaboration.
Or that activity could be in a social networking environment run by Linden Lab and tightly integrated with Second Life.  Remember Avatars United?   LL bought it, did little to enhance or promote it, and finally closed it with a requiem about using the technology in some future resurrection in closer integration with Second Life. That  may be on the way.   
Opening to the web
Moving the profiles to the web could be a first step towards a much larger opening to the web.  LL is working on a  project that could present a timeline like the one Facebook presents.  Since LL has access to the Second Life group database, it could map those groups into identical groups in a Facebook-like web environment.   It could do the same, of course, with the individual IM system.  Unlike Facebook, LL would probably let people operate under avatar names.
LL could also connect the communications in that web environment to the communications in Second Life.  So you would not have to load and run the viewer just to talk to your friends in Second Life.  You could could talk with them via the web environment.  And that would work on your Android.
How would such a social media site do at selling eyeballs?
  • Niche market, of course.  Tiny compared to Facebook  
  • Possibly good on some tech and media-related demographics  
  • Promising on introducing people to Second Life.  
  • Great on scale-up path via web technology
  • Good on marketing video and music products 
Would Linden Lab be planning a social media expansion of virtual worlds into the web?  I don't know.  I am sure somebody is working a plan like that.  Google has already tried virtual worlds as a social meeting environment.
Google Lively turned into Google deadly.   But a link to virtual worlds could be kind of added feature Google needs to put the plus in Google+.   And, BTW, Google is also in the business of selling eyeballs.  It probably won't want avatars either.  Unless it can connect them to the real people.  


  • What do we do in Virtual Worlds? 
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  • Annotated screen shots made with Jing
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