Broadcast Networks vs. Social Networks

I know many of you subscribe to this blog and have it delivered to your email every morning.

But for those of you who go to the Inside Music Media website every day perhaps you've noticed that I started placing a Facebook icon in the right hand column to replace the customary "about me" option. (The Blogger service by Google is less than perfect and the site works best in Safari or Firefox, but I realize most use Explorer).

Now, I'm going to confess right up front that I've done so because of the strong feeling that I get from the next generation that social networking is the holy grail for Internet activity. Most certainly it's a player in the future of the music and media businesses.

The next generation is comfortable exposing all to everyone -- or at least what they determine is everything about them that's fit to print.

The key words are about them.

The next generation will readily and proudly admit that they are self-absorbed. That they want what they want when they want it.

They also like to talk about themselves.

So on many student Facebook pages you'll learn whether they have a boyfriend, girlfriend or whether they are male and prefer men or female and prefer women or maybe nothing at all. Is the info reliable? Sometimes it's right on. Sometimes they are playing with you.

My Italian mother always said in effect people don't care about you -- you should care about them.

Dale Carnegie, the author of long-time best-selling book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" revealed a way to get people to like you by advising talk in terms of the other person's interest. Not you're own -- as we in society are prone to do these days.

Either both of them are turning over in their graves or the next generation knows something they didn't know. Arguably, Gen Y knows what they want and they want to tell you about themselves. They also want to "spy" on others (the word "spy" out of the mouths of some of my students).

Social networking, as I have been saying, is the real force to reckon with for media companies both old school and new age. The next generation is coming of age -- leaving email behind, still text messaging for now and untying themselves from their computers.

Yet they remain more connected than ever.

Baby boomers and Gen Xers had clubs, groups, face-to-face encounters. Gen Y to some extent still does but they also have virtual contact through Facebook, MySpace, music sites like Pandora and even video web addresses like YouTube.

And more niche interest social networks are cropping up all the time.

This presents a problem for anyone -- especially a media company -- that thinks it has a future without a social networking strategy.

I decided to practice what I preach (for a change) and jump into social networking.

Actually, I put up my first Facebook page about a year and a half ago. My students ganged up and bullied me into doing it. So I asked my college age daughter for some help and launched my first Facebook page. Next day, I went to class and bragged "It's up for all to see". They said, "where are the pictures of your kids, your wife, your house". One wanted to know where I graded their papers -- Scottsdale or LA (I commute weekly to teach at USC).

I was floored.

So, I will admit my discomfort in posting personal pictures and personal information.

In my profile I said I prefer women which made my wife very happy. But I played it straight. It read like my mother was whispering in my ear, "don't talk about yourself". God knows, I disappointed her on that one by going into the entertainment business.

Then, recently when it became apparent to me that young people were using social networking sites like Facebook to replace email, I really took notice.

Email --- outdated?

With them, it is. And as I am finding it is very easy to communicate within a social network (and many are members of several social networks -- although one major glitch is these networks don't readily allow for cross-platform pollination so to speak).

On my birthday in July, I got tons of nice messages posted to my Facebook "wall" wishing me all the best. It's easy to remember birth dates. Facebook reminds you. And it tells you everytime someone in your network has done just about anything. If they've updated their profiles, you'll know about it (if they give general permission).

I'm liking this.

It's a great way to communicate with my young students and its has me wishing for my older friends and acquaintances to start a Facebook page.

That's probably not going to happen. We get set in our ways when we get older and when I say older I say -- Generation X. You thought I was going to say 50 or 60 year old. Social networking is one of the gifts that young people have given to the Internet.

So, I decided to throw caution to the wind and go against my inclination that it's better not to talk about me -- or show me on the golf course, or picture my friends and see me in front of the theater where I saw Jersey Boys on Broadway. I'm sure most of my contemporaries won't give a damn.

But I'm hoping that over time more and more people will connect through this social network and many others. Companies are forming groups on Facebook. MySpace has been littered (and I mean that word) with commerce -- that's another problem for another post.

In the early days of radio, networks linked stations and their "communities" with programming that would otherwise not be available to them. Sitting in front of their radios, they joined the forerunner to today's Internet social networks. Except their networks were one way -- the broadcaster spoke to them. Technology didn't allow for seamless two way communication back then.

Same is true of network television, book clubs, even social groups that were often restricted to a locale.

Not true today -- the entire world is the locale and everyone is eligible.

Future social networks will be both large and very small depending on how specialized the interests of the group are.

Social networks like MySpace are already a force in introducing new music to a wide group of like-minded people. Young artists get instant exposure -- and even those scoundrels at the record labels manipulate MySpace to gain favor for established artists. Horrors.

And where do you think viral marketing gets serious -- in a social network.

So, the day has arrived when talking about yourself and readily communicating with like minded people is important. It's just here for the very young right now.

And yes, even older people can spy over these networks.

If Mark Mays had a Facebook page I could spy on him (as my students do to their exes and dating prospects). I always wondered whether he had a Texas ranch. What would it look like. Maybe I could even write something on his Facebook "wall" and vice versa. (This is beyond fantasy -- it's a horror story -- but I'm half-kidding).

I could see my friend Gary Stevens' many exotic automobiles and his beautiful home in Florida.

I might someday be able to do as young people do and go to Facebook to check someone out after hearing from them or meeting them. This is great, but it cuts both ways -- especially if you're an employer looking to hire someone and that someone has drunken frat party pictures posted. See, it could be ugly.

Young people "poke" each other indicating that they like them and wait for a "poke" back. Sometimes its playful, sometimes it's more (remember what I said earlier, they don't always play it straight which makes things very interesting).

So for now anyway I am living in the world of social networking. Try it if you dare because I know I will be writing about this phenomenon many times in the future.

I am also member of A Small World, a high-end web site a member invited me to join that I have no right being a member of. Also, social networks for the very rich are popping up. Doctors also have a social network that they are beginning to use for medical advice from each other. There's a interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal on this.

Sometimes the next generation confounds traditional media.

Here's your chance to stretch yourself and learn a lot about the future of music and media at the same time --social networking.

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