Things are not always what they seem.

February 24th, 2007 by Chris

Has anyone else noticed a propensity of tech journalists based out of San Francisco to adopt a center of the universe mentality? Local fads to them are automatically national fads or the next big thing? Two obvious cases in point, Friendster & Second Life.

Friendster was never that popular but started mostly out in the San Francisco area and got significantly disproportionate news coverage considering it’s size. In every article I’ve ever read about that site I always had a private chuckle from the traffic figures given.

Second Life is much the same. Anyone who is in this industry and watches tech news shows and reads tech magazines knows about Second Life, and has known about it for… 5 years now? According to their website they have had only 1.3 million users actually enter Second Life in the past 60 days.

I thought of all this just because I was reading this article (good read, all things considered) which talks about the build or sell mentality among Internet entrepreneurs, and again I had a private chuckle because my literature site draws more monthly uniques than Friendster…. and the Friendster people spurned a deal worth 1 billion dollars in today’s stock value.

What does all this mean? Perception is reality maybe? Or do I need to hire a PR firm?

7 Responses to “Things are not always what they seem.”

  1. ToddW  Says:

    Glad I’m not the only one who looks at some of these things and thinks “WTF” or “That’s not popular!”.

    I think the large media can really skew reality. SF or NYC it doesn’t matter the media can blow it out.

  2. Nico  Says:

    In my opinion…good marketing can win over good quality/traffic at any time.

    Perception is defenitively very important.

  3. Kyle  Says:

    I don’t mean to pick at your blog post, but I think it is important to be accurate in what you’re trying to stay.

    With Friendster, you are right. No arguement there. Especially when they opened up registrations to anyone. They were on to something when it was restricted to EDU/school registrations only.

    With Second Life, I’d have to say this is a totally different kind of site. Its subscription based, and they sell their in game currency/property for real world $. The “game” itself is quite boring in my opinion, as it isn’t a game.. but a second life with a fairly large learning curve. You can play for free, but then you don’t have access to land purchasing and development.

    I don’t think it is fair to lump Second Life into this category of overly hyped businesses from the news. Second Life deserves the hype, given it isn’t some free informational website (online literature), or free service (friendster).

  4. Chris  Says:

    Certainly Second Life has a viable business model, but I’ve been hearing about it for way too long, back when it’s users were measured in 4 or 5 figures.

    It has always had a larger media profile than it deserved. Not saying it deserves no media profile, just that what it has is greater than it deserves.

  5. Ken Barbalace  Says:

    Face it Chris, you need a new PR man. ;)

    Seriously though the media does totally over blow the whole thing. At the same time the media is just being played by PR people who are really good at their jobs.

    This is no different than the “old medias” PR hype is as important as having a good product with a good business plan.

  6. Andrew Johnson  Says:

    Worse, Second Life’s 1.3 million users is the number of users that have logged in at least once. It includes: secondary accounts and people who left immediately. The actual active number of active users is under 20,000. A chart I saw recently shows the average weekly use time of active users dropping off sharply.

    Second Life is the perfect example of what aggressive PR can do. Unfortunately, their “game” is too confusing for the average person. Imagine what would happen if it made sense to normal people, and those million (more or less) visitors stayed and/or told their friends?

  7. Marc  Says:

    I have to agree with Chris. Great post by the way. So many examples that you didn’t cite. In regard to ‘Second Life’, it’s a perfect example. Go into a Best Buy or Circuit City and ask around (employees and customers) if they know what ‘Second Life’ is. If you’re a geek, you may be shocked to learn the vast majority of people won’t have a freaking clue about what you’re talking about. They won’t even know what it is, much less play it. I think one of the points Chris is making is that these journalists, pundits, bloggers, etc. talk about these things as if they are a part of everyones life and they’ve conquered their respective markets. The way they are talked about you’d think they were mainstream. Here’s an example that I found particulrly irritating a few years ago. FLICKR. Man the hype never stopped and they had a tiny market share. The whole silicon valley publicity machine hyped them for 2 years straight all the while phtobucket was gulping down market share without even a mention. Where is FLICKR today? Kind of a middling also-ran in the shadow of market leaders that were ignored by the silicon valley intelligencia. Yahoo must feel like a bunch of chumps for all the money they wasted on Web 2.0 bling that no one in the real world uses. When I heard people from Yahoo lamenting that they couldn’t understand the draw and growth phenomenon of MySpace a couple of years ago (Russell Beattie comes to mind), I knew those guys were in trouble. Contrast that with a business that is run by adults and knows how to pick investments, News Corp.

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