Category Archives: Friends Reunited

Why did it all go wrong for the once fashionable social network?…Bebo has failed to evolve in the way of Facebook and Twitter

Buying a fledgling social networking site is the quickest way for a giant corporation to gain credibility with a youthful audience, but it is also the fastest way to waste a few hundred million pounds.

US internet giant AOL snapped up Bebo, the UK equivalent of Facebook, for $800m two years ago, only to announce last week that it was embarking on a “strategic review” that is likely to lead to its closure. At the time of the deal in March 2008, which made millionaires of Bebo’s founders Michael Birch, a Briton, and his Californian wife, Xochi, AOL described it as “a game-changing acquisition” that “puts us in a leading position in social media”. That lead evaporated remarkably quickly.

Back then, Bebo had a global audience of between 7.1 million (according to online ratings company Nielsen) and 40 million (said Bebo). Most agreed it was the third largest social networking site in the UK behind Facebook and MySpace, although it had struggled to gain traction in the US. According to figures from ComScore, Bebo’s global unique visitors in February 2010 totalled 12.8 million, down 45% on February 2009. Facebook had 462 million visitors, MySpace nearly 110 million, and Twitter 69.5 million.

What went wrong? Being brought by a global corporation tarnished the cooler-than-thou image of an independent start-up that was particularly popular in school playgrounds. Aggressive expansion by Facebook also played a part. Like most social networking sites, Bebo also benefited from a novelty factor that can disappear as quickly as it emerges. News Corp, the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, bought MySpace for $580m in 2005, only to watch its appeal diminish along with its value as it loaded the site with adverts.

ITV took a gamble on another UK start up, Friends Reunited, paying £120m in the same year, only to sell it at a huge loss last year. Company insiders criticise AOL for failing to invest in Bebo, and point out that an acquisition by a corporate giant tends to stifle creativity. That may hide a more uncomfortable truth, however, which can make a mockery of the savviest owners. Social networking sites are businesses based on the fickle behaviour of internet users, who are free to move on to the next site when a competitor emerges and are offered few reasons to stick with their existing site. In that sense, Bebo was a fad.

It may not have fallen into the trap of letting naked commercialisation scare its teenage users away, but nor did it evolve in the manner that many of its competitors did. Facebook is used by adults as well as children. Much of Twitter’s power, influence – and likely longevity – derives from the fact it has become a professional tool, rather than an online outlet for gossip posted by its users.

Start-ups rarely fare well when they are taken under the wing of a bureaucratic corporate parent, and Bebo may also have suffered by hitching its wagon to AOL, a business that has itself seen better days. It is owned by Time Warner, an American media giant that owns CNN, Time magazine and a host of other assets, but the $162bn deal that brought AOL and Time together is now regarded as one of the most disastrous in corporate history.

Buying Bebo was an attempt to build on AOL’s status as the world’s first internet provider by bolting on a new audience, but internet users are notoriously promiscuous. For Bebo’s young users, the site turned out to be the online equivalent of a teenage crush – intense while it lasted, but it didn’t last…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/apr/11/bebo-mistake-aol-facebook-twitter

Google turns the other cheek as Facebook viewing hits per page overtakes it in UK

The UK is doing its bit to run up Facebook’s server bills, with the site now accounting for one in every seven pages viewed in the region and users spending more time on the site each visit, according to September data from Experian Hitwise.  The social networking website accounted for 14.5% of all UK internet page views during September, equivalent to one in every seven. Facebook was the second most visited website in the UK after Google UK, but because the social networking site’s users view a much larger number of pages per visit, Facebook was the clear leader in terms of page views.

UK internet visits to Facebook increased by 86.1% between September 2008 and September 2009, and have more than doubled over the last 14 months. During September 2009, the site accounted for almost half (49.2%) of all UK internet visits to a social networking website.

Robin Goad, director of research for Experian Hitwise in the UK, said: “Although it has fallen somewhat off the media radar in favour of Twitter recently, Facebook remains far and away the most popular social networking website in the UK. “One significant factor is that the site’s growth in the UK doesn’t yet show any signs of slowing.

“A key measure of success for any social network is average session time; as we have seen with sites such as Friends Reunited and MySpace, when average session times begins to drop off visitor numbers soon follow. “Facebook has yet to experience this problem: Hitwise monitoring data shows that its average visit time increased from 19 minutes 59 seconds in September 2008 to 26 minutes 14 seconds during September 2009 [a 31% increase].”

http://www.brandrepublic.com/BrandRepublicNews/News/945954/Facebook-swells-one-seven-UK-page-views/?DCMP=EMC-DailyNewsBulletin