Monday, March 23

@stephenstrong Got That Feeling Again

I find it fascinating when an online technology/trend achieves what I call the Doppler Hype Effect = the average American knows everything about it before they actually experience it. This usually occurs when the mass media mentions, refers, and explains it so often that even my parents can discuss it in conversation (and they are still on a dial-up modem).

This trend dates back to the beginning of the WWW. From 1995-96 you started hearing more and more about these websites that people accessed with a web browser. Being an AOL user wasn't exactly the end game. Apparently there was another Internet out there that AOL's browser couldn't even see. But over time everyone started feeling the itch to get a website of their own, even if their computer didn't have a modem. And you started feeling really awkward when everyone traded AOL email addresses -- except you.

This mass hype is an important part of consumer acceptance. It is easier to accept something when you assume everyone else is already doing it.

Internet history is ripe with examples of emerging technologies that were so hyped by the media that even a 10 year old could explain them before they went mainstream = email, chat rooms, instant messaging, search engines, e-commerce, personal web pages, webcams. Things we now take for granted were the untamed Wild West just 10 years ago.

Sending a complete stranger money based on a digital photo found on eBay sounds risky. But perhaps less so if 60 Minutes was just talking about the new craze of "Internet cyberBazaars."

Mobile phone carriers should thank American Idol every night for bringing SMS texting to the masses.

Every new Internet trend (fad?) launches in mass media with the initial How The Hell Does This Thing Work? articles. Then come the Look How Many People Are Doing This reports. Followed by Can You Believe People Are Making Money Off This? At which point it becomes part of our culture and common vernacular or quickly fades away, overrun by the next big hype.

This trend took a 5 year hiatus after the Dotcom crash in 2001. Web 1.0 faded away and new hypes were quickly dismissed in a flurry of VC-tainted catcalls.

Then came Web 2.0.

Remember all the reports about blogging and user generated content? New crazy sites like Flickr, YouTube, Second Life, Myspace, Facebook? Most of which the average American could discuss at great length, despite never having visited any of them. The hype wheel made one big loop and is spinning faster than ever.

Which brings me to Twitter. The current King of Hype. Get ready, your mom will soon have lots of questions about it.

The Wall Street Journal recently explained how the hell it works. Everyone is talking about how popular it is getting. It hasn't quite reached the third stage of making money, but Twitter is now receiving more shout outs than a high school hip hop concert.

Yesterday the Sunday Chicago Tribune published an article on page 3 promoting comedian Michael Ian Black's Twitter-driven Fuck It list [follow him]. And this morning NPR ran a story on a Los Angeles Korean taco truck's popularity, thanks to its use of Twitter [follow that truck].

Earlier this month the Daily Show served up a hilarious overview of Congress Twitts:

The other talk shows quickly followed. Leno asking Whoopi if she Twitters [nope]. Jimmy Fallon challenging his viewers to follow this guy on Twitter [follow Jimmy]. Ellen explaining how Diddy and Martha Stewart compelled her to start tweeting [follow her and him and her].

Expect this self-feeding hype to continue growing, thus reinforcing that it must be the Next Big Thing.

Twitter is the cool club kid, jockeying to crash the big party that is our nation's consciousness. Skype, Digg, and Yelp are still hanging out in the parking lot waiting for their turn. Mobile Web has been there so long that he set up an RV camper. But Twitter is right at the club entrance, working the bouncers and pleading that they keep searching for his name on the list.

Hmmmm, your name ain't here. But everyone in line seems to know you. So maybe...

Damn, Hulu just bribed the other bouncer with a big Superbowl TV ad. You might need to wait until tomorrow night when you can get their attention again. So it goes. Maybe you can hit up Good Morning America or Time for a backstage pass. Because hanging with celebrities is the fastest way to the top.

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