Why New Media IPOs Bug Me

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

When Facebook went through its IPO, I couldn’t quite pin down what bothered me about it. I’m a semi-Facebook user. I dabble in Google+. I use and enjoy small company software for my professional work, like Tinderbox. I pay for as many things as I’m able on my professor’s salary. In my quiet time, I think Facebook should charge a subscription for various levels of use, like a buck a month, so that people have a stake in the features they like or depend on. I ask my students if they would pay and they say they wouldn’t. But then I compare the $1 a month cost to their cell phone charges. Most are on their parents plan, so they don’t even know how much they pay for services like cable. When I tell them, they typically shrug and half-heartedly change their minds or reconsider to the extend that they’re willing to forecast their future behaviors around things they don’t have a lot of control.

If we think about investment as a long term commitment, the IPO takes on a different cast. What did people buy long term for Facebook? What did the big money purchase? Will Facebook exist in ten years? Or will it go into hardware, sell a Facebook phone? Is this any different than, say, the next new thing in refrigerators or automobiles?

I have no idea. But I do worry about the long haul.

It would seem to me that Twitter also has this problem. A lot of people depend on the service and have an investment in its core features. Note how the tweet, however, is not really a tweet anymore but a load of interpretables. The core metaphor is changing. And RSS would seem to be wobbling. Don’t people have more control over or with RSS? Perhaps I’m wrong about that.

Simple things tend toward complexity. For me the nostalgia window is getting shorter.


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