Commentary

Adios 2011

Adios2011From Netflix blunders to an overhyped Cloud, OMMA bids bye-bye to all that.

Columns that bid a less-than-fond adieu to the outgoing year’s biggest loserheads are challenging on two fronts. Stylistically, any such list risks coming off as glibly dismissive or, worse, Andy Rooney-ish. (“ ‘MySpace’? Looks more like ‘EmptySpace’ to me. Also, nowadays lawnmowers are way too loud.”) On a practical level, most of these columns are filed in early November and often prove outdated by the time they find their way into readers’ hands. Along those lines: If Yahoo overpays for Friendster’s reanimated corpse or unveils a 2g tablet cell phone between November 15 and the time you’re reading this — neither of which, given the company’s recent track record, would be much of a surprise — please excuse the absence of both anti-achievements.

Nonetheless, in the first 10-plus months of 2011, there was no shortage of online media- and marketing-related goofs to prematurely eulogize. Consider that…


Netflix spent the first half of the year as the broadband-enabled world’s prom king. Even as the content universe morphed into something unrecognizable, Netflix thrived. It gave people what they wanted, at a competitive price. Such complicated business strategies rarely exist outside the halcyon halls of academia.


So Netflix did what any company in similar straits would do: double prices, split its service in two and slap the part appreciated by tech Luddites (the mail-in component) with a name straight off a fast-food value menu. Not surprisingly, users complained reeeeaaaaaaally loud on the Internet, some even threatening to cancel their subscriptions, maybe, if they got around to it. Then the company apologized and set everything except the prices back to where they once were, and the world continued to spin on its axis. And so it was that Netflix was replaced as The Internet Brand You Love to Hate by…


Spotify. Never mind that the music service’s interface felt as intuitive as particle physics, nor that its sound quality (at least for non-premium users) harkened back to the era of transistor radios. Here it was, only a mere 10 years after the music industry destroyed itself by botching the digital-era transition — all the music in the universe, sort of unfettered and mostly free!


Music fascists and music casualists alike rhapsodized about its debut. They extended Spotify’s reach by okaying a Facebook connection that announced to everyone within their e-circle what they were listening to and when. On the plus side, it was heartening to learn that somebody else had indulged in the dueling-guitars delight that is Def Leppard’s “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak,” even if my version of the metal ballad-anthem happened to be stored…


In the cloud, which replaced the external hard drive as the year’s magical technology cubbyhole. Worried that your multiply backed-up files would all be lost in a suspicious grease fire? Afraid that an overenthusiastic night janitor would Swiffer your work computer into disrepair? Fret no more. Just upload every virtual thing you own into a cyber-sanctuary in the sky.


Cloud-y storage arrived in paid (Apple’s iCloud, Carbonite) and free (Dropbox, Amazon) packages, sans obstructions and ads — for now. But while it can’t protect your physical corpus against immediate harm, it ensured the security of any/all digital items in a year pockmarked by…


Massive disasters that have nothing to do with media or marketing. Judging by the number and intensity of outlier weather events — tsunamis, hurricanes, freak early-season snowstorms — we all learned a valuable lesson in 2011: that today’s connection-facilitating, production-enhancing technology isn’t all that helpful when one’s local power source has danced an unfortunate tango with a rotted-out oak tree. Just imagine the profound despair experienced by electricity-starved storm victims when they weren’t able to access …


Groupon, their localized daily bargain/giggle combo. An ordinary dispatch from Groupon, or one of the 7,200 clones similarly attempting to foist cut-rate foodstuffs and 12-for-the-price-of-1 tickets to Major League Soccer games on Internet shopping addicts, might read thusly: “Humankind can be divided into two distinct groups: those who avail themselves of today’s exclusive offer for teeth-whitening and the English. Joking! English people have interestingly shaped and colored teeth, and there’s totally no analogy to be drawn between the decay of their chompers and the decay of their empire. But seriously, this teeth-whitening offer is really good. Please buy it. My stock options don’t kick in for another six years. ttyl!”


Yup. In the wake of its late-year ipo, Groupon has a market cap of something like $732 gatrillion dollars, which renders it — at least perception-wise — a far hotter property than…


Yahoo, which spent most of 2011 attempting to evolve itself into a Google clone, complete with the Internet-advertising moxie and techno-innovation. While the doppelganger/Single White Female approach must’ve been flattering to the Google folks, it didn’t take. Yahoo ends the year in a curious state of stasis: big and successful, but not quite big and successful enough to win over the skeptics.


I don’t know much about Carol Bartz, nor could I enumerate her supposed misdeeds in any great detail. All I know is that my beloved Yahoo home page is now subdivided by a double-wide randomly generated display ad, which likely subtracts more in goodwill than it adds in revenue. Godspeed, sweet Web marketeer. Maybe you’re just too beautiful for the Internet.

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