It's Hard To Tell A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come

You may recall that during the first dot-com bubble, almost every ridiculous idea could find funding and enthusiastic backing, until everybody discovered there were a lot of bad ideas out there and not enough consumer interest to support any of them. Too bad.

Today, happily for many, there is enough consumer interest to keep many bad ideas going for a lot longer than than they deserve. There's even a sort of awe of the inequality of the size of idea versus the size of its success. That leads to a kind of a glorification of juvenile attitudes of the tech multi-millionaires out there.

ValleyWag.com  published emails from SnapChat co-founder Evan Spiegel, just now 23, that he circulated to his fraternity roomies back at Sanford. The emails talked a lot about drinking in excess and generally, well, knob-polishing and were detailed in a brutal article titled, “'F-- Bitches Get Leid,’ The Sleazy Frat Emails of Snapchat’s CEO.”

What was most shocking to me is that this guy was offered $3 billion from Facebook and then $4 billion from Google, for Snapchat. He had the idea for this business in college while coordinating the orderly manufacturing of Jell-O shots and wondering if he had peed on his girlfriend while in a drunken stupor.

What can you say?

When you’re on the reporting end of the biz, you hear the perpetual suspension of disbelief from the people who run these businesses about what the businesses are.

I notice a lot of people talk about the view from 30,000 feet, but mainly it’s to say they don’t want to go up there to look down.

That’s obviously dangerous in action, but interesting to observe.

Explaining to anybody how PewDiePie videos on YouTube have had 145 million views in the last two weeks, according to StatSheep.com, is just about as impossible to understand as how it is that over a third, and possibly even half of all the online video ads that advertisers are paying for are actually never seen.

That’s called a viewability issue when, of course, it is just the opposite. It’s really a gullibility issue.

Snapchat is a perfect example, almost Web site metaphor, for seen-and-forgotten nature of so much online.

Snapchat personal videos remain for about 10 seconds and then are gone. (You suppose Spiegel wishes that his emails has disappeared as quickly.) Supposedly, 700 million photos or videos are sent via Snapchat every day.

Those number suggest that’s quite a business, which is what Google and Facebook must have thought, too. But thinking about what a slight “service” Snapchat is, and how outsized its numbers are, becomes the kind of Internet story that must keep investors and advertisers skeptical.  

Success and failure has never seemed more immediate or murky on both ends.

It’s true in every facet of the business. Many people are laughing all the way to the bank, but not coming back to the office after cashing the checks.

“In the fast-moving, boom-and-bust business of mobile app development, it’s virtually impossible to retain control over the market’s notoriously fickle consumer base,” wrote Nash Riggins on WorldFinance. com.  “Similar to speculative investors, app users are constantly on the lookout for the next big thing — and are quick to abandon any sort of software that fails to evolve in line with the fast-paced market. In fact, some 78% of mobile users don’t even bother returning to a new app after using it just once.”

That’s stunning, and World Finance noted that statistic as a preface to discussing King Digital Entertainment’s ridiculous success with the Candy Crush app and the IPO King has planned, and how, well, illusionary success can be.

Who knows? The Diffusion Group’s  Joel Espelien seemed to be gasping last week, trying so hard to understand why Google’s YouTube might be interested in acquiring Twitch, for about $1 billion according to reports.   

Based on the numbers, it would seem to make some sense. Twitch has 45 million monthly unique viewers and he reports it accounts for 1.8% of the peak Internet traffic, ahead of Hulu and Facebook.

But what is it? Prior to last week, very few of us—except about 45 million, maybe—ever heard of it.

“For those unfamiliar with Twitch,” Espelien wrote, “it consists of live streams of people playing video games. Yes, you read that correctly — watching someone else play a video game.”

To him, Twitch may be proof that the next big things are coming from different places than they have before. To somebody else—me, for handy example—it means anything goes.  At least for awhile.  It did in the dot-com world the first time around, too.    

pj@mediapost.com

Recommend (4) Print RSS