Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mark Zuckerberg, Person of the Year

His face now adorns the cover of Time Magazine, in a way it has been an amazing year for Mark Zuckerberg. To be named the "Person of the Year" is a singular honour, one that recognizes that this has been one of the major newsmakers of the past 12 months. While some have wanted the title to go to Julian Assange, and have accused Time of playing it safe, it may have been a situation of peaking far too late. When you think about it, while Wikileaks has been in the news for at least the last half of 2010, it is doubtful many in the mainstream would have recognized the name until the recent leakage of the US Embassy Cables. Plus let's be honest, would Time risk the wrath of the governing elite? The cables are simply gossip, what is more interesting is the leaks about the banks. Now that is something all of us want to read. If there is any truth to the rumours that prove the banks were in collusion and in their greed and overarching stupidity, let the economy collapse, it should be like the closing scene of Johnny Mnemonic, when people burn down the building of Pharmakon Industries. It's fitting since Pharmakon was busy hiding the cure to NAS, probably for more money.

NAS or Nerve Attenuation Syndrome is characterized by:
Causes uncontrollable seizures at complete random. It is apparently caused by the overload of electronic interference present in the film.

So what about Mark Zuckerberg? One has to agree the scope of Facebook is daunting, its growth is amazing, and the fact that it has faced competition and has ignored them all, as if they don't exist. Which is probably true in a way. Their only 'serious' competition is Diaspora, and that seems to be very slow in coming to the field of play. Will it be a worthy competitor, will Google bring out its social network? Hard to say, if you notice, Google has been running into some problems when it enters other fields, consider Google Wave and Google Buzz. However, can they turn it around with Google Me? Probably not likely.

What does it mean for Mark Zuckerberg to be given this honour? Some suggest it is more to do with the fact that Time has a nice deal with Facebook. They have been playing nice with Time, so give them some recognition. One person wrote in the comments to the main article:
Zuckerberg was voted Time's so-called person of the year because Facebook offers Time a lot more potential upside than Wikileaks. Time can get eyeballs and demographic marketing info on users from FB. And possible advertising partnerships. Assange's Wikileaks does not offer this.

Time has a Facebook button so people can link stories from the site to their FB accounts. And like many news websites now, Time encourages readers to use their Facebook or other social media login credentials to post comments. Time gets access to people's info from Facebook when they login to Time via their Facebook account.

Choosing Zuckerberg was unethical given Time's relationship with Facebook. Saying that Zuckerberg's company allows people to connect in a new, empowering way is disengenuous and cynical. The point of FB is to make money on advertising and suck people's demographic info out of them for the advertisers and content partners such as Time.

Is it a case of old media recognizing new media?

Or perhaps it is a case of a brilliant PR strategy being played out to absolute success.

Let's go back about a year ago. If you can remember the early part of 2010, Facebook was beginning to be hated. It has been growing but certainly it did reach a fever pitch early this year. One article I read was called, "I hate FB; Lots of Reasons to hate Facebook". The big reason for hating Facebook had to do with privacy, the company was always changing privacy settings. When a change was made the complaint was the default was 'everybody', and to change your privacy setting became an exercise in extreme patience and understanding confusing directions. It got so bad that people were threatening to leave Facebook. At one time Leo Laporte left Facebook. He was one of many who threatened to pull out.

Then there was the movie "Social Network", it was supposed to be a true hatchet job on Mark Zuckerberg, portraying him as a low-life sleazebag who stabbed people, including his best friend, in the back to be rich. Mark, at first would not see the movie, in fact the release of the movie is what probably catapulted him to the Person of the Year status. For here is the true reason, it's not so much the acceptance of new media, or even new social media by old media, it's a case of some good old fashioned PR.

First he appears on Oprah and gives a sizeable donation to the schools of New Jersey, then he gets all folksy with Oprah, allowing the cameras into his home. The effort was to show the humanness of Mark, that he wasn't a total jerk or heartless scumbag. It was obvious from the Oprah interview that a lot of training went into it and coaching. It was a far better interview then the one he did with Sarah Lacey, which has been called a total disaster. Later on Mark gets to sit down and interview former President George Bush.

Just recently he also pledged to give away half his fortune to charity.

So a masterful job of spin when you think about it. From a person who was reviled to one who is considered a really nice guy once you get to know him, it was a truly impressive transformation.

It could be thought of that he is not deserving such an honour. To be honest, his company has grown in influence, and while he has made a few blunders along the way, he has managed to recover. Now people are returning to Facebook and the rest of us are still posting pictures.

So in the end, congratulations Mark, you worked hard and you deserve it.

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