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Facebook Is No Friend of Traditional, New Media

I believe my wife to be the toughest, stubbornest (and prettiest) gal alive.

If being married to me wasn't proof enough, consider the strength in her decision not to follow the wandering herds of me, I and us onto the wide-open, public spaces of Facebook.

I have typed of my utter disdain for this social-networking behemoth before, and then had to admit that I participate in this online game of peer pressure. Oh, I quit once, only to grudgingly crawl back.

Of course, my wife is a print journalist, so she is in constant training to stay plenty tough and plenty stubborn. After all, Facebook is just the latest enemy of print. Think I'm overstating that?

While on a recent vacation out West, we were sitting on a sun-drenched patio sipping wine (now I am just trying to rub it in) and an old friend of my wife's was expounding on the virtues of Facebook, and trying to convince her old buddy to join the mob.

It was the typical Facebook recruiting speech, "We can exchange pictures! You can catch up with old friends! You can read about what these friends are doing every single second!"

Etc.

I knew that she was making no headway, but it was harmless and cute -- until she said this:
"It is kind of like my newspaper -- how I keep track of the news."

Holy cow, I had heard about people like her. She was one of THOSE -- a person who grew up when newspapers were king, and when cable TV wasn't even a glimmer in anybody's eye. Now she was going to Facebook for her news ... Ugh.

Turns out, she is hardly alone.

The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism issued one of its landmark, exhaustive reports, "The State of the News Media, 2010" a few months ago. It revealed (among a million-and-one other things) that social-media sites were increasingly becoming go-to stops for acquiring news and information.

It seems, and I can unfortunately confirm, that people spread news around on these sites like it were the latest strain of the common cold. The good news, I guess, is that 80 percent of this news comes from traditional, reputable media sites like, er, those run by newspapers.

Things evolve quickly on the Internet, though, and it's not just the traditional media like newspapers that are getting laid to waste by this social virus.

Today, I came across a story that showed the time people spent on Facebook each day increased 50 percent year on year, while the time they spent on other 'traditional' online news portals like AOL, MSN and Yahoo! was down significantly.

A user who spent 7 minutes and 38 seconds a day on AOL last May, for instance, spent a scant 4:56 this year. But the Facebook friend who spent 15 minutes on their office computer last May getting caught up on all the news each day, spent a whopping 22:39 this spring!

See? The wine-sipping friend was right. It's all Facebook, all the time.

For now, anyway.

A warning shot in the form of a story was fired in Facebook's direction on The Guardian's website Sunday. While it offered no dispute about social media's impact on the traditional sites, it warned that online news consumers were nothing if not fickle creatures. They felt no remorse about dumping one website for another.

Remember MySpace?

Many, many years ago (five) it was all the rage. So much so, Rupert Murdoch spent $580 million to purchase it. Last year, Murdoch's News Corporation took what is called an "impairment charge" against MySpace to the tune of $450 million. Essentially, in investors' leery eyes, MySpace is worth only $130 million these days.

Right now Facebook is valued at $800 million, or double what is was a year ago. There's every reason to believe its value will skyrocket until -- not when -- the next big thing comes along.

From the story:

"Facebook is still growing and making smarter moves. It is also much more appealing to a wider audience. But someone could come along with a better idea tomorrow and eat Facebook's lunch.
"This is an intensely competitive market. It's not like signing up to Sky (TV), where you have a commercial relationship. If you see something better, you can click and go elsewhere. You can build an audience very fast online but you can lose it very quickly as well. You have to keep investing in technology."

Or, you can just do what my wife does, ignore it.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)