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The Next MySpace Could Be A Cluster Bomb

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The rise of the social network has caused the rise of other, perhaps predictable, things: copycat networks; and investor curiosity. Blame MySpace and Facebook. Blame (or congratulate) Hi5, known, apparently, everywhere but the US, for extracting $20 million out of venture capitalists.

Blame early-stage venture capitalist firm Lightspeed and partner Jeremy Liew for getting me started on this.

I say this might be predictable because we see it in every other market: something is a smash, surprising success, incredibly or potentially profitable, and all kinds of somethings just like it pop up to ride the wave until the public can’t stand it anymore.

Cases in point: every search engine that came along after Google; every new YouTube-esque video site; every reality show sneezed out of LA after Survivor; every hottie bottle-blonde teen pop sensation to ever walk off the stage of the Mouseketeer’s Club.

Oh yeah, and the Spice Girls.

Point is, they offer nothing new.

Mr. Liew, whom I said you could blame, was prompted by Hi5′s funding success and did some digging to find out which social networks out there had the highest user engagement.

That’s an interesting choice because it is indicative of where metrics are truly going. It’s not just about unique visitors anymore. It’s also about time spent with potential consumers. A hundred broke customers are worth far less to marketers than 10 ready-to-spend customers.

Excuse me while I state the obvious.

Liew provides us with charts and graphs, illustrating that Orkut, the Google-owned network primarily popular in Brazil and India, seems to have the most deeply active members, who outrank MySpace in terms of average pages viewed per visitor.

Orkut also nearly matches MySpace in terms of average visits per visitor. MySpace is still, by far, the king of the social networks, though, with over 100 times the number of visitors Orkut has.

In terms of all things considered – unique visitors, average pages per visitor, and average visit per visitor, MySpace trounces all competition, including the recently much-lauded Facebook.

"Myspace continues to dominate Facebook on all three key metrics, suggesting that reports of MySpace’s death are greatly exaggerated, Facebook apps notwithstanding."

Heh. Good one, Jeremy.

But these you’ve heard of. The next question is: which will be the next blockbuster? Inquiring investors want to know.

Recently, on a gut feeling, I announced the dawn of the niche network era. But in all actuality, I don’t think a niche network – though valuable for pinpoint targeting purposes – will be able to attract enough interest, from users or investors, on its own.

Liew notes two surprises on his engagement chart lists, neither of which he had heard of, nor I, and most likely, nor you, but made both top 11 lists in terms of engagement.

One is Hoverspot.com, which appears to be, like so many others, a clone of MySpace – very vanilla, very J. Crew, very, um, Microsoft Zune. Standard, a suitable alternative, like tofu, Hyundai, Ask.com, or the other white meat.

But unless everybody defects from MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, Tagged.com, Friendster – you know, the social networks that look just like it – it’s hard to imagine it being a blockbuster.

But I’ve been wrong before. I was wrong about Emo music.

What’s more interesting to me are the true originals, and the fact that a social networking site called VampireFreaks.com is on that list. Talk about niche. Are there enough vampire freaks to make an impact, even if they’re really engrossed in their network? Well, they have more visitors than Orkut, if that tells you something.

It tells me there’s a surprising number of vampire freaks out there. But there’s a limited number of things, as a marketer, you can expect them to bite on.

Ba-rum-bum.

However, if you gather up the vampires, the bar flies, and the full-time moms, and put them under the same roof – in separate rooms, of course – you may be on to something really brilliant: a network of niche networks already divided by demographics.

I don’t expect any one social network to take over the industry giants. I expect clusters of them, bought and bundled and monetized, to it.  

The Next MySpace Could Be A Cluster Bomb


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  • http://vampirefreaks.com jet

    hey man, as the webmaster of vampirefreaks i found your article entertaining. vampirefreaks is actually not about vampires at all, its about dark / gothic culture. mostly consisting of people in the industrial, gothic, punk, metal, and other alternative scenes. also we are privately owned and operated with no venture capital.

    anyway, thanks for the mention and the interesting read.

    • davido

      Oh sure, lull us into a false sense of security.. and then when darkness falls.. BAM! Straight for the jugular!
      ;P

  • WoodyEdmiston

    Your analysis, I believe, is correct. This type of communication is destined to fully integrate itself into our culture. The concern I have is what the effect of so many different ideas will have on the community. For instance, VampireFreaks.com is where Kimveer Gill formlated a lot of his ideas about life before he shot 20 people in Dawson College (Canada) See my blog at http://woodyedmiston.typepad.com/woodyedmiston/ if culture issues matter to you.

    Assimilation of big ideas into the greater culture happens all the time. For instance, as a law enforcement educator, we see changes frequently in how crime is committed. A few years ago the idea of the “criminal profiler” – a specialist who jetted around the country solving crimes was a new thing. Young people all over the country rushed to join the FBI and be profilers. Today, profiling has assimilated itself into all levels of law enforcement all the way down to the basic academy. Some sort of profiling is used throughout law enforcment but there are few specialists. There is really not a need for them except at the academy level.

    Now, as far as venture capital is concerned, is it really a good investment to put money into mega-sized sites like MySpace if niche sites are what we can expect in the future? I think not. The majority of people want to communicate with a slightly larger network of friends -easily and quickly – and not with 160,000,000 users with whom they don’t have a lot in common. The connecting thread can be parenting, Formula One Racecars, vampire freaks, and a vast number of interests. My prognisis is that large sites will become less dominant. The culture of the east coast, south, and west coasts are different and have been for years. Either social networking will have the effect of national conformity (if not world-wide conformity) or the cultures of each community will segment itself and choose smaller, specifically targeted sites. The latter is my prediction of what you can expect.

  • http://onmycity.com craig cameron

    Hi,

    I love your article and you hit it right on the head. The value is in local and it’s in niche but you have to bring these all together under one roof and make it relevant.

    Checkout OnMyCity.com for something truly different and the next big thing. We take a master network like sports and place sub networks like soccer and soccer teams underneath but tie everything together by city and businesses. We are creating niche networks for anything and making it local, even big national brands like red bull who need to be seen in these local markets.

  • Dani – aka dead-faerie @vampirefreaks.com

    what a load of s**t

  • VF user – dragonman

    as a Vampirefreaks.com user, have to politely say, that was fail. completely fail. interesting read, but a complete wad of SH*T.

  • Victori

    Load of shit, indeed.
    Amazing how idiotic a man can be.

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