our view

December 16, 2010

We created a monster

With Facebook now boasting more than 500 million members uploading more than one billion pieces of content a day, the site has become the No. 1 URL in the United States in a variety of measurements. No longer is it simply a way for college kids to stay connected. Our grandmothers are now using it. “Saturday Night Live” is mocking it. Simply said, Facebook is no longer cool. But there’s no arguing with its success.

We really shouldn’t be surprised at Facebook’s accomplishments. After all, we were instrumental in creating it. Yes, the viral marketing among younger people is what got the ball rolling, but Facebook gained phenomenal steam when nearly every reputable business started posting the Facebook logo in all their marketing efforts, encouraging their customers to become friends. Those of us in the media should be kicking each other for our own stupidity. Staff at radio stations, TV stations, daily newspapers, websites and even this paper worked feverishly to build friends lists, bringing more traffic to Facebook with absolutely no plan on how to build revenues or profits from it. Then, in turn, Facebook made what is now a not-so-surprising move to start selling local and targeted advertising on all our Facebook pages. In essence, we created our own competition, but the damage is done.

While Facebook continues to seek out talent to fight Google, battle with cyber-bullying issues and implement features like video game platforms, a number of simple sites with less red tape and concerns will surface. The simplest of simplest will prosper, which Craigslist has certainly proven. In its quest to be everything to everyone, Facebook will fall as quickly as it has risen. Fortunately for independent media like us, the company isn’t very good at selling local advertising, which can’t be done effectively online. Personal relationships do still matter, at least on the local scene and at least for the time being. But with a whole slough of other Internet start-ups groping for the local dollars, it won’t take long for one to discover the tools to drive local success. Let’s just not hand them the keys this time. CV



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