Revealed: Twitter Is a Tambourine? Plus, How to Save YouTube

Ad Age Readers Respond and Give Media Guy Ideas (Involving Harry Potter, Vampires and Paula Abdul)

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It's been a while since I've run a Media Guy R.A.W. (Reader Appreciation Week) column. The response I get -- comments, e-mails and tweets, not to mention articles and blog posts by reporters, bloggers, etc., around the world -- is hugely appreciated and often pretty overwhelming. So this week I've decided to share the wealth by highlighting a small handful of gratifying, entertaining responses to this column:


Commenting on one of my recent columns about Twitter, Dr. Michal Ann Strahilevitz, professor of marketing at Golden Gate University, had this to say about the supposed triumph of certain social media (such as Twitter, as used by Ashton Kutcher) over mainstream media (such as CNN, which Kutcher claimed to have vanquished, because he collected 1 million Twitter followers slightly faster than the cable news behemoth): "In the big scheme of things, this 'war' is not even really a major contest. We just have a new toy in the world of mass communications. Sort of like a tambourine. Cute, fun instrument, but by no means the end of the piano."

NETPAL: Disneyfied netbook blends hardware with media experience.
NETPAL: Disneyfied netbook blends hardware with media experience.
Yes, exactly! I love it! Twitter is a tambourine. Which makes Facebook, I dunno, an accordion? LinkedIn is, perhaps, is a sousaphone. And Google is one of those giant, gut-thumping drums that symphony orchestras use when they do John Williams programs. Oh, and YouTube is, of course, a keyboard ... played by a cat.


In May I wrote a column titled, "The Coming End of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook Socialism," about how, basically, a certain group of high-profile Web 2.0 companies obviously can't survive forever with their current strategies (of spending way more money than they take in). The column was inspired, in part, by a Silicon Alley Insider piece titled "YouTube is Doomed," by Fliqz CEO Benjamin Wayne, who riffed provocatively on a spring Credit Suisse report that put YouTube's estimated 2009 losses at nearly half a billion dollars. Jeff Bach of Stoughton, Wis., offered this comment:

"It could be that I am missing something simple, or maybe I'm a true doofus hillbilly, but at the moment I cannot see why implementing an upload fee for UGC [user-generated content] ... is such [a] bad idea for YouTube.

"a. An upload fee would give immediate revenue.

"b. An upload fee would cut down on the frivolous uploaders of cat videos and so reduce bandwidth costs.

"c. An upload fee would decrease the amount of content against which no one advertises.

"So what if their usage drops off?! If I were YouTube, I would be happy to make some amount of money off a smaller user base rather than my current half-billion loss off a huge user base. The users that go elsewhere become someone else's zero-revenue problem."

Jeff, not only are you no doofus hillbilly, you're a reasonable, logical heartlander -- from my home state of Wisconsin, no less -- who's good at math, and I love you for it. By the way, it's worth pointing out to naysayers who question the efficacy of an upload fee: A certain company called eBay had no problem at all getting huge while imposing all manner of what are, basically, upload fees.


In June I published a column titled "How the $0 Netbook Might Just Help Save the Media Industry," in which I noted that consumer-level computer hardware, thanks to the netbook phenomenon, was rapidly trending toward $0. "If hardware becomes a virtually free commodity," I wrote, "hardware makers have to think and act like media companies -- which we're seeing already with cellphone carriers -- by bundling the hardware experience with a media experience."

Several readers have pointed out that since my column ran, Disney announced a partnership with netbook pioneer Asus to offer the Disney Netpal -- available in "Princess Pink" or "Magic Blue." It's not cheap ($349 at Toys 'R' Us, starting this week), but it probably doesn't need to be, given that Disney has always been good at extracting sizable sums from parental wallets. What's interesting about the Disney Netpal, though, is that it supplies a Disney-fied computing environment for kids on a grown-up netbook (i.e., it's not just a Disney-branded toy), complete with a Disney browser (tricked out with parental-control settings), a Radio Disney widget, etc. In other words, the hardware experience has been bundled with ... a media experience.


I've been heartened by the response to a new offshoot of this column called Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week, in which I've partnered with Trendrr, a social-media trend-tracking service, to chart a set of pop-cultural/media trends each Friday. What's been particularly fun: watching readers use social media to get the word out about it. For instance, hundreds of readers have tweeted links, resulting in thousands of additional readers coming straight to the charts (and a No. 1 Most Read ranking at for the more recent chart).

OK, yeah, my cheeky headlines -- like "If Harry Potter Got Swine Flu, Would Twitter Self-Destruct?" and "Vampires Attack Twitter! (Twitter Lives to Tell About It)" -- are shameless linkbait. But I make no apologies -- especially for my upcoming Trendrr Chart of the Week, titled, "Vampires Attack Harry Potter and Paula Abdul while Susan Boyle Covers Michael Jackson's 'Thriller.'"

Stay tuned.

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Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco

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