Pondering The End Of Pownce -- Or, How Many Social Nets Does One Columnist Need?

I'm pretty sure that I never went to the site until today, the day after it was announced that the Twitter competitor was going to transmit its last micro-post a week from Monday.

Never having been part of the community, visiting the site only now felt a little bit like rubber-necking at the site of a car crash. It's interesting to watch, as long as the cars are totaled, but all the humans walk away from the wreckage with nary a scratch. (To that end, Pownce has built an export feature, which will allow its community to export messages to other blogging services, including Vox  and TypePad. Both are owned by SixApart, which is taking over what's left of the Pownce technology.)

You may wonder how it is that the alleged Social Media Insider never registered for Pownce, which, at its January 2008 public launch, seemed to garner about as much coverage of its launch party as any social media tool could hope for. The answer? I can't devote all of my waking, or working, hours to social media. Having been amply Facebooked, MySpaced, Plaxo-ed, LinkedIn-ed and Friend-Fed, I'm finding there just aren't enough hours in the day to be an active member of every social media community.  I never got the feeling that my crew was hanging out there.

It's too bad for Pownce, and other social media products that will no doubt meet the same fate going forward. Pownce, by many accounts, had some really cool features, and was particularly focused on what might be called uber-sharing, letting a person share messages, links, files and events with their friends, apparently in a way that old-fashioned tools like email couldn't. Hell, it could even induce a robot to pour beer.

But what Pownce seems to have been missing is critical mass, and that's a problem at least as old as Sony's Betamax. You might recall that even though Betamax was seen as the superior VCR technology, the distribution battle was won by VHS. It was pretty hard to invest in a Betamax VCR when less product was available to play on it.

In this case, the product is the community, and while everyone in social media can be accused of occasionally shifting allegiances to the next big thing, ultimately we want to be where there's product -- in other words, the community of people with whom we like to hang out, digitally speaking. One blogger, in lamenting Pownce's passing, noted, "I myself am a so-called ‘Featured User' on the site and have spent many hours meeting and interacting with over 1,000 friends and followers- 1,000 connections which will vanish in just two weeks."

To extend the Betamax metaphor, it's like investing in hundreds of Betamax videocassettes only to find that the player that can screen them is obsolete. Better to go out and build a following on Twitter, which seems like it will be around for years to come.

Does the closing of Pownce signal a shakeout in social media? Maybe. But based on what I've said above, it's not because of the reason du jour: the crappy state of the economy. Even a burgeoning area like social media needs only a certain number of networks to keep it growing and vibrant. Turns out Pownce wasn't one of them.


4 comments about "Pondering The End Of Pownce -- Or, How Many Social Nets Does One Columnist Need?".
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  1. James Nail from Forrester Research, December 3, 2008 at 3:50 p.m.

    Your ears must be burning. I blogged this yesterday in the larger context of the micro-blogging world and mentioned your campaign to find a business model for Twitter. Having resisted the entire micro-blogging thing up to this point, I think they will all disappear, either in a poof like Pownce or inside of Facebook or other networks as an expanded version of the "what are you doing now?" feature. Actually, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to put money down on how soon Typepad will launch their own micro-blogging service.

  2. Martin Edic from WTSsocial, December 3, 2008 at 4:11 p.m.

    I think this is the beginning of a shakeout among similar services. Even MySpace is being bandied around as losing to FB. People will migrate to the service that everyone else uses, vis a vis Google vs Yahoo/Ask/Live search.
    We collect from all the microblogs and the number of Twitter results we have in our social media warehouse is 10000x the others.
    As for losing followers, invite them to follow you on Twitter.

  3. Chris Hansen, December 3, 2008 at 4:12 p.m.

    Everyone's trying to jump on the social media bandwagon and I don't see how they all can survive. I did some quick research yesterday for the the post I wrote on my blog about focusing on the social media sites that work best for you ( and I was surprised just how many I found on business networking alone.

    One topic I touched on that perhaps one of you Social Media Insider gurus could expand on is the discussion around the potential future move from the existing "macro" social networking sites to a more "micro" networking experience. I have my theories but would love to hear more about this from the experts.

  4. Bonnie Parrish-kell from Dancing Rabbits Communications, December 3, 2008 at 5:14 p.m.

    Many more social media and web tool providers will be going away as real world economics and time factors play out.

    Remember, time factors include researching these prospective SM/Web tools, learning how to use them properly and efficiently, deciding which ones to use, and of course keeping them up to date.

    The biggest time factor is taking care of your existing clients and connecting with new business. That's where the money is - SM/Web are the tools to help in that connection process.

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