Apr 24

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

100,000 people make friends with the Wendy's Square

Yesterday's NY Times has a very interesting article about MySpace's attempt to expand its advertising business. The problem: MySpace serves more pages than anyone but Yahoo! but only has 1/20th of Yahoo's revenue, and no one knows how to target enough ads to all those diverse pages.

The most intriguing bit describes how MySpace is starting to think of advertisers as members: "The bigger opportunity, however, is not so much selling banner ads, but finding ways to integrate advertisers into the site's web of relationships. Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers, for example, created a profile for the animated square hamburger character from its television campaign. About 100,000 people signed up to be "friends" with the square."

This new model of social-network advertising could be as disruptive and powerful as Overture's introduction of relevancy-based search advertising, which was then exploited by Google to turn the industry on its head. The exploration of new business models for Web 2.0 is really just beginning. Keep your eyes out for transformative business model innovations. (Let us know any new ones that you see.)

tags: web 2.0  | comments: 14   | Sphere It

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Comments: 14

  Shree [04.24.06 06:18 AM]

I guess people are loosing track of their conscience with the whole concept of social networks. I still dont get it right, Myspace is one of the most disgusting clutter I've ever seen on the web and still I see it growing day by day. I am sure there are lot of people out their who might be thinking the same. But surely it shows a lot of metrics on how the young crowd thinks and what runs thru their minds....

  yongmi [04.24.06 06:53 AM]

Perhaps O'Reilly (or News Corporation) should take a look at Cyworld. It is a massive Korean social networking site where it's nothing new for companies to establish profiles for their mascots or characters. It also has its own economy, in the sense that a Cyworld user can purchase various images and other adornments for their "mini-hompy." For example, if a user wants their profile home page to be plastered with Pucca images, they can do so by purchasing the images available for sale for use on Cyworld, and the character owner (in this case a company called Vooz) gets a cut.
There are interesting developments going on in the non-English speaking world which in some ways are leaving behind U.S. endeavours like MySpace. Now as to how to overcome language and cultural barriers for the crossflow of information ...

  Ivan Pope [04.24.06 08:14 AM]

Remember that blogs live or die by honesty. Companies who made pretend blogs are laughed out of court. Remember the cow that was supposed to be blogging for a milk company - folded up in shame.
Now we find that 100,000 people sign up to be 'friends' with an animated hamburger. Which obviously isn't a real person.
So which is right? I would hazard that, 100,000 people will sign up to be friends with the first animated hamburger, because that's the sort of crazy mixed up cool chasing place that MySpace is. But I would imagine that very few people will be signing up to be friends with the second animated hamburger, or the first animated car, or the dancing cow. These things will go from ultra cool to pathetic in the blink of an eye.

  Tim O'Reilly [04.24.06 09:18 AM]

Ivan, I'm not so sure. Suppose that O'Reilly had an account for its famous tarsier image, and that account were manned by people who really stood for the company, and could in fact be a point of contact. I can imagine that would work.

It's easy to dismiss the inauthentic. But it's just as easy for an individual to have an inauthentic or boring blog as for a company. And just as easy for a company to have an authentic and interesting one. Part of Web 2.0 is precisely learning the new rules of what works and what doesn't. A lot of people will get it wrong, but a few will get it right, and eventually their results will teach the rest what to do. That's how open source software has progressed, and Web 2.0.

  Marshall Kirkpatrick [04.24.06 09:43 AM]

I can't help but wonder what this says about MySpace users...

I can imagine developing a relationship with a certain vendor in order to score deals automatically, etc. - but I'd just subscribe to their RSS feed. Perhaps this is a more friendly version of the same idea.

  Charles H [04.24.06 09:53 AM]

@Ivan: True enough, but these aren't "pretend" blogs because there's no attempt (afaik) at genuineness. They are open about the fact that users are signing up to be friends with an advert.

And people want to be friends with -- or associate with -- adverts. It's all about branding. This is why people pay money to wear tshirts with logos on them, effectively giving corporations free advert space on their own bodies.

Further, in the age of the celebrity CEO how many people do you think would sign up to be "friends" with Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Richard Branson?

  Kevin Farnham [04.24.06 09:59 AM]

In the introduction to our forthcoming book on MySpace, we (the authors) ask "Is MySpace the world's biggest role-playing game?" Among adults, especially, MySpace is used as a stage for dressing oneself in a persona, whether of a fantasy character from the faery world or Avalon, or as a famous person one admires (Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson, ...). I've even reserved a place for my own future role-playing fun by registering MySpace user Edmund Spenser (the 16th Century author) and grabbing the URL.

MySpace URLs do not appear to be much recognized by the MySpace user community. But, it's far easier to "own" (for free!) a very recognizable and easily remembered URL on MySpace than on the web at large. It might make sense for companies to establish the equivalent of "branch offices" on MySpace, which would make their information more accessible to their MySpace "friends".

One thing I'm noticing about the 15-25 generation: email is not a preferred mode of communication for them. Social networking sites, instant messaging, phone text messaging to their cell phones, yes; email and land-based phones (like the ones attached to walls), no. So, companies sending out email to teens who bought something in the past will probably be wasting their effort.

As for the ads that splash across every MySpace page, I think the kids almost don't even see them. Their eyes have been trained from young childhood to look at screens (video games, computer games, music video, TV) and separate the items of interest from the items they don't care about. Older people, who grew up considering a mouse to be a little animate creature, still find clicking a little pointer at a little picture on a screen something of a novelty: things weren't that way when they were kids.

But for today's 15 year olds, a time of life where there were no mouse clicks never existed. Hence, I think modes of advertising that have worked for the over 25 generation cannot be expected to excite the curiosity of the first fully-Internet-literate Internet-linked generation, today's teens.

  Ivan Pope [04.25.06 02:37 AM]

OK, this is a very interesting space. I'm going to open a branch office for Snipperoo in MySpace and see how it goes. I'm going to see how many friends we can get.
For sure, this is something new. Let's see where it goes to.

  Mike [04.25.06 05:02 AM]

What happens when adverts sign up to be friends with each other?

  Michael Rad [05.01.06 03:50 AM]

Social networking does have impressive numbers, but teh CTRs and ROIs are low when you consider that those using it have ABSOLUTELY NO INTENTION to purchase stuff - they are there to socialize.

Michael Rad – online moneymaking opportunities

  Sandy [05.30.06 06:16 AM]

I just read this: "Fox officials wonder whether this sort of commerce, built on relationships, can be extended to small businesses. A Ford dealership in, say, Indiana could create a profile, said Mark A. Jung, the chief operating officer of Fox Interactive. The profiles themselves, he said, would probably be free, but MySpace would sell enhancements to help businesses attract customers and complete transactions"

  Rich [08.30.06 10:36 AM]

I'd agree with Michael Rad. How much of this results in something actionable? It's easy to accept an invite to be someone's friend on MySpace, but how much of an incentive do you have to return to that site or to participate in anything? It's one thing to click "Yes" on an invite, another go out and buy something based upon your new best brand friend. I guess it's just about keeping the brand in front of people.

It does make me sad that 100,000 people signed up to be friends with an animated hamburger. Wendy's is nobody's friend. Frosties are not love, just a product.

  Tom [12.18.06 12:51 AM]

How I can get Informations in german? my english is not so well and i like to know more about this program

  Shawn Olson [08.10.07 10:24 AM]

With one arm elbow deep in web technologies and a past as a concert photographer, it is impossible for me not to have to deal with the entity we call MySpace. As a parent and someone passionate about education... social network sites like MySpace disturb me (it's blocked in my home). At the same time I see their potential for generating content and advertising outlets. Trying to find a balance between freedom (that's what all the teenagers and college kids love about MySpace) and standards is a key problem. While there are many businesses that can get away with advertising on shoddy pages full of useless thanks for adding people to buddy lists, many businesses do themselves no favor by appearing on such pages--which is probably why MySpace may struggle compared to other online content providers.

Trying to deal with the above issue has been part of my concern as I have been developing and promoting a social network for artists at the Artistic Network . Giving people free tools to post/publish guarantees a source of fresh content but does not guarantee anything good--which is why a dual system of open social networking tools combined with human editors may be the key to creating "honest" content.

I have written a short commentary about MySpace from the point of view of a parent and from the point of view of local bands that look to MySpace as a source of promotion: .

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