MySpace Latest Teen Fad Site to Fade
WaPo fronts news that MySpace is going the way of Friendster and Xanga.
One key measure of a site’s popularity is the amount of time a user stays on the site. Tracked over time, such usage data for older networking sites frequented by young people show how popularity gradually rises then falls, like an inchworm’s back.
Take Xanga, the hot social networking site before MySpace: In October 2002, the typical Xanga user spent an average of 1 hour and 39 minutes a month on the site, a figure that declined steadily, reaching only 11 minutes last month, according to Nielsen-NetRatings. Friendster, another older site, hit its first usage peak of 1 hour and 51 minutes in October 2003, and then hit another peak of 3 hours and 3 minutes in February 2006. But last month, the average user was on Friendster for a mere 7 minutes.
MySpace usage ramped up heavily during its first year and a half, hitting 2 hours and 25 minutes in October last year. Then it dropped to about 2 hours and held relatively steady there for the past year. Facebook, a younger networking site, is still on a gradual incline, reaching 1 hour and 9 minutes last month .
It’s hard to make an online audience stick. Most Internet services are free and compete for a viewer’s time, which most sites then try to parlay into advertising dollars. The more time someone spends on a site, the more ads they see. The successful sites engender habits among their users, but users can — and historically have — defected to other services for any number of reasons.
The high school English class cites several reasons for backing off of MySpace: Creepy people proposition them. Teachers and parents monitor them. New, more alluring free services comes along, so they collectively jump ship.
The relatively short lifecycle of a popular site is a terrifying prospect for companies like Google Inc., which this month spent $1.65 billion in stock to acquire the Internet’s latest grass-roots favorite, year-old YouTube, whose popularity Google hopes to harness as a loyal video audience.
My guess is that another reason these sites fade away is that, much like teen slang, once grown-ups pick up on them, they lose their “cool” factor. Once words like “bling” and “phat” make it into mainstream usage, even as shtick, they lose their edge appeal. Ditto grandma having her own MySpace site.