A New BeginNING

8 10 2008

The very first post I made to this blog was about my old friend Tom Anderson, co-founder of MySpace. We were in a band together in college and I really admire all that he’s been able to accomplish with his social network. He’s taking it into new territory and putting music at the forefront, which is his true passion as a veritable walking encyclopedia of arcane musical trivia (Ringo – throw me a banana!). Don’t ask.


So that’s why I’m concerned about MySpace and Facebook. Are they losing their cache? In a recent PC World article on the “10 Most Overrated Products” Facebook loses to Multiply.com and reporter Darren Gladstone quips that Facebook has “free applications of dubious value, plus scores of plug-ins and games that draw you deeper into the Facebook rabbit hole until you’re spending hours a day befriending complete strangers with whom you have nothing in common beyond a shared love of Raisin Bran.”


And Mediaweek recently rated the Digital Hot List 2008, and MySpace wasn’t even listed. What’s going on? Is social media tanking? I don’t think so. What I think is happening is that more people are trying sites like Ning.com to build their own social media sites where they can grow their own communities on the Internet.


Haven’t heard of Ning? I read a brilliant article on Ning in Fast Company earlier this year and I began using the site. Basically, it enables anyone with minimal knowledge of website design to create an online social network. That network can be open to everyone or closed and open to members by invitation only. The level of customization is awesome. Post videos and still images, blog, chat in real time, or create forums – most of what you can do with Facebook or MySpace is available, but you are essentially creating your own Facebook or MySpace with Ning serving as the backbone.


Marketers who have tried and failed to leverage social networking sites should pay attention to Ning because it provides the tools (at free or very low cost) to create a community with shared interests online. And it’s very cool. If Tom can create an empire like MySpace, you can create YourSpace with Ning. Let me know if you’ve played around with Ning and how it’s working for you.


Social Media Wars

29 05 2008

Following up on my past post, I saw this video and thought it really captured the essence of how social media is affecting our personal brand identities and experience of reality. It also features a cameo by my friend (and yours) Tom Anderson. Enjoy!

I Was the Pete Best of MySpace

28 05 2008

Before Web 2.0, before broadband, before the dot bombs exploded, when grunge ruled the airwaves, I, Michael Bourne, was friends with Tom Anderson, the co-founder of MySpace. Tom is the first “friend” you make when you join MySpace, but he’s unknown to most MySpace users personally. His smiling face greets you when you join, but it’s like the face on a milk carton, amorphous in space and not tied to reality.

But I knew the real Tom when he sat across from me in our English Lit honors thesis class at Cal Berkeley. He had an aura even then, a confidence that was conveyed from his strong stare and impressive intellect. Tom read Nietzsche and understood him. He was writing about Superman, and not the cartoon. Tom spent hours under the pedestrian bridge in Sproul Plaza strumming an acoustic guitar and singing Beatles tunes. So I asked him to join my band, he said yes, and together with crackerjack guitarist Justin and funk bass man Lenny, we formed Meathead.

The name was a joke. A riff on the fact that Lenny and I lived with vegans in the hills of Berkeley. Our first real gig was at Meat Fest, a celebration of red meat at a local co-op, and the name just stuck. (I can’t make this stuff up.) We played the Bison Brewery and some open mic nights, and even cut a demo. I recall one day at a sushi buffet when we sat down and drew a poster for a concert we were putting on. We stapled them to every lamppost near campus. In some respects, MySpace has done that for bands on a broader scale.

I had no illusions about the future of this band. I knew that we’d split up once I moved to Japan and Justin pursued his advanced degrees in mathematics. But I had a feeling back then that Tom was destined for greater things. Like all great front men, he had the swagger, the look, and the charisma. Even if he didn’t pursue a music career, I knew that I’d see him again.

Fast-forward 14 years. Tom has cashed out to Rupert Murdoch and is following his bliss on various projects that keep him ridiculously busy. The last time I spoke with him was to congratulate him on the sale of his company. We’d exchanged some snail mail over the years, and he took care of my guitar while I was in Tokyo, but we definitely lost touch. Now, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, et. al are making it impossible for people to lose track of their friends. Social networking has made a lot of people very rich in the process, and the world is a better place for it.

Me? I’m in PR promoting some great brands. It’s been a long time since my beats set the rhythm for Tom’s on-stage moves, and the lyrics of my songs came out of his mouth. It seems that everyone in the marketing world wants a piece of him, like little screaming schoolgirls at a concert. And marketers have been trying to have Web 2.0 pioneers dance to their beats and say what they want to those teeming masses. They’ve had some hits and misses in the process. I think successful marketers will join the bands of the Web 2.0 masters and make beautiful music together, and strike out on their own to create masterpieces of their own. One thing is for sure: if we don’t do it, we’ll all need to find new gigs.

Original MySpace Tom Anderson Gig Poster