Selling It On Social Networks

Social networks like MySpace and Facebook represent the Net’s biggest boom towns where millions of users log in every day to chat, often passing tips on favorite movies, music, TV shows and just about everything else under the sun.

So you’d think social networks are must-buys for advertisers, right? After all, with millions of users eyeballing individual pages on social networks every day, there must be a way for advertisers to reach that audience.
Well, maybe not.

There are signs that banner ads on social pages don’t equal a significant jump in retail sales. What’s more, social networkers aren’t all that keen on acting as “shills” for major corporations. Sure, they may pass along word that their favorite band is on top of the charts, but they’re not all that anxious to promote a brand of soda or detergent, the New York Times reports.

The Times quoted a study by technology research firm IDC stating that only 3 percent of Internet users in the U.S. don’t have a problem with advertising on social networks, while the majority of users don’t like spreading advertising among their online friends.

And if that wasn’t enough to discourage corporate America, the same study labeled advertising on social networks “stillborn.”

Although it probably doesn’t come as any great surprise to social network users, people don’t flock to places like MySpace and Facebook to learn about a new sandwich at Burger King or the latest athletic shoes at Wal-Mart. It’s social interaction that makes such places popular, not a message from Chevy.

The Times cited one Proctor & Gamble ad campaign on Facebook where the company was pushing its Crest Whitestrips product.

P&G kicked off the promotion in 2006 when it invited Facebook members from 20 college campus networks to become “fans” of the oral hygiene product. According to Facebook, the promotion attracted 14,000 “fans.”

However, the promotion included thousands of free movie screenings as well as free concert tickets. In other words, P&G spent a lot of time and effort to reach a much smaller group of people than what TV or radio advertising might have brought to the purchasing table.

Furthermore, even P&G’s manager of interactive marketing and innovation, Ted McConnell, doesn’t seem to be that impressed by advertising attempts on social networking. Addressing the Advertising Club of Cincinnati, McConnell said Facebook’s ability to aim messages at certain demographic groups was impressive.

“All brands want consumers to be their ‘friends.’ Oh, boy, do they!” the Times reported McConnell telling the club.
However, after he made it clear he was speaking for himself, and not his P&G employers, McConnell added, “I don’t want to be best friends with a brand. It’s just stuff.”


Find Me Guilty

As expected, Guns N’ Roses leak enabler Kevin Cogill has pleaded guilty to illicitly streaming Chinese Democracy tracks weeks before the album was released.

Cogill actually agreed to a plea bargain in November but made it official Dec. 15 before a judge in a Los Angeles courtroom.

By all accounts, Cogill never actually leaked the tracks. That dubious honor goes to a person or persons unknown who gave the tracks to Cogill. He has not publicly stated where he got the tunes.

But Cogill did accept the tracks and streamed the unreleased songs on his music blog, leading to his arrest. How the actual leaker(s) acquired the tracks is still a mystery, although that part of the caper may soon come to light.

That’s because Cogill has agreed to cooperate with authorities, which might include naming names.

Cogill’s plea deal is expected to result in probation but, according to the deal, he could receive a year in prison along with a hefty fine.


No Surrender

The Harvard Law School professor known for challenging the Recording Industry Association of America’s litigation campaign against P2P users suspected of music piracy has taken up the case of a Rhode Island couple whose son has been sued by the recording industry.

The case involves Arthur and Judie Tenenbaum, whose son, Joel, is facing a RIAA lawsuit. The prof, Charles Nesson, is trying to block the RIAA from forcing the parents to surrender the computer the music industry trade organization claims Joel used to illegally download and distribute copyrighted music.

Nesson is expected to argue that the computer was not the one used to download the tunes. The issue gets a little complicated because while the Tenenbaums own the machine, son Joel had possession of it in 2004 – when the RIAA claims the downloading occurred.

Nesson made news in November when he challenged the federal copyright law at the heart of the RIAA’s legal strategy in its war against P2P users trading copyrighted tracks. Nesson claims the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 is unconstitutional because it allows one private group – the RIAA – to carry out civil enforcement of a criminal law.

A court decision on Nesson’s challenge regarding the Tenenbaums’ computer was expected Dec. 15, but Magistrate Judge Lincoln Almond postponed the hearing until Jan. 9 to give lawyers involved in the case, including two from outside Rhode Island, time to appear in court.

However, the judge did rule on a request from a music industry lawyer that evidence in the case be preserved. The judge denied the lawyer’s request after Nesson argued it would effectively prevent the Tenenbaums from using their computer.


Oh … And One More Thing

Apple CEO Steve Jobs will not give the keynote address at the annual MacWorld trade show in January.

Jobs’ appearances at past MacWorlds are legendary, for it is at the annual event where Jobs has introduced some of Apple’s most important products. What’s more, Jobs always waited until the last possible moment in his address before he unveiled those products, often telling the audience he has “one more thing.”

In 2008 that one more thing was Apple’s MacBook Air laptop, while the iPhone held the “one more thing” position in 2007.
Then there was Jobs’ “one more thing” announcement at the first MacWorld after the company’s co-founder returned to the company as its CEO, saying at the event, “I almost forgot. We’re profitable.”

Apple marketing exec Philip Schiller will deliver the MacWorld keynote address in place of Jobs.

Meanwhile, other rumors come into play when contemplating a Jobs no-show at MacWorld.

Rumors that Jobs had experienced a relapse of pancreatic cancer began circulating after the Apple CEO appeared to have lost a considerable amount of weight during the second half of 2008. Jobs recovered from the disease in 2004.

But his absence from January’s MacWorld isn’t Apple’s only change for MacWorld. The company said it is backing out of the event because it has other methods for reaching its customers, including its growing number of retail stores.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster echoed that sentiment, saying Apple can generate as much buzz by hosting its own product launch events.

The analyst also noted that Jobs’ absence from this year’s MacWorld could mean the company doesn’t have any big product announcements.

But Munster also said Jobs not giving the keynote address is much more important than Apple forgoing the event for product rollouts.

“This is his baby,” said Munster. “This is his presentation. It’s his flock.”