The comment of Keith Benjamin, a venture capitalist from the Levensohn partnership in San Francisco, didn’t surprise me when he offered his simple explanation for the way big media companies are currently scrambling to buy internet social networking services. He said they are out to â€œrecapture the audiences they are losing at an alarming rate.
Corporate giants like Rupert Murdoch of News International certainly understand the need to staunch the hemorrhaging of their audience, even if they don’t quite comprehend the nature of their new competition, which is often very cheery and not even primarily profit-driven. The New York Times made me laugh out loud when they described the anxieties of Murdoch and Viacom’s Sumner Redstone as amounting to fear of death by smiley-face.
Murdoch paid $580 million for MySpace.com, the decidedly perky network used predominantly by teens and the race is now on to capture Facebook, the favorite of college-aged mean and women. Some analysts, including Business Week, say it could be worth $2 billion. That’s an extraordinary number and it’s very hard to say what it’s based on.
Nobody even knows exactly how many young people use Facebook but the Wall Street Journal reports that the vast majority of students at many colleges maintain Facebook home pages, checking in to those pages – like two thirds of all Facebook users do – at least once a day. Not a bad advertising target â€“ by anybody’s measure.