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« Facebook (and me) on 60 Minutes | Main | How the recession will affect social applications »

January 14, 2008

Facebook recap from 60 Minutes

by Charlene Li

The 60 Minutes segment on Facebook is being well covered by the usual players TechCrunch, Silicon Alley Insider, et. al) and Kara Swisher has an excellent summary. Here's the video as well, so you can see it directly.

Reading the reaction to the video, especially from the peanut gallery of Facebook and fellow industry watchers, I have a few thoughts:

- Many people said they didn't learn anything new. Come on -- how many of you honestly expected that Facebook (who are notoriously not forthcoming) going to say something new and interesting on 60 Minutes?

- This was groundbreaking, not because of any new news, but because it was completely new for the mainstream. The vast majority of my social circle is *not* on Facebook, and there's now a fair chance that they know at least a bit more.

- Facebook won/lost from the additional exposure. You can say that Facebook came out looking pretty good, others will say that the dive into Beacon at the end potentially scared off potentially new users. I say it was a fair, balanced look at a company that has a lot going for it, and lot to figure out still.

- Google will be challenged by Facebook -- and LinkedIn, and Bebo, et. al. This was my very small contribution to the segment, so I think this deserves a bit of elaboration. Right now, Google is the search leader -- and there's no better place to go to look up *information* like the lyrics for a song, or a list of hotels in Maui. But when it comes to opinion -- such as the best places to visit in Maui for a family with young kids -- Google falls flat. What's better is getting advice from people who both have been to Maui with their own kids *and* also know the interests of my kids.

Here's another example: I recently asked on LinkedIn Answers the best programming language to teach my son (must be signed-in to LinkedIn to view). I received 28 answers, but more importantly, I can see the background for the answerers -- is the person a software engineer or a Web designer? That provides context, which is extremely important in the answer. Google is great at finding facts, not so great (at least today) at helping me make complicated decisions. For that, I need advice, and social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook provides the context for that advice.

- "Is Mark Zuckerberg the right person to run Facebook? Is he too young?" I was asked this question by Leslie Stahl, but it didn't make it on the air. I don't think it's an issue of age - as a first time entrepreneur, we'd be having this conversation regardless of whether he's 23, 33, or 43. He's made mistakes along the way, especially with Facebook Beacon, but remember, he also greenlighted Facebook Platform which has arguably reshaped the entire way we think about this space. That type of vision is what Facebook needs right now, especially if they want to take on much larger, aggressive players like Google. What they don't need -- at least not for a while -- is a "mature" CEO who lacks the vision but abounds in management experience. A better question to ask is if Mark and his team have the right level of judgment that's needed to succeed, especially when it comes to understanding user privacy and advertising sensitivity. This appears to be their repeated blindspot, and they would do well to learn from their mistakes. That's the core of judgment, which is gained only through experience.

- Is Facebook worth $15 billion? This was never a significant issue raised during the piece, and I think rightly so. There's a small group of people -- Microsoft and Facebook's other private equity investors -- who agreed to that valuation. Otherwise it doesn't matter. Lonely CEO Media put it well -- the more important question is does Facebook provide value to users and advertisers trying to reach them. As long as they focus and deliver on this, they can potentially be worth a great deal of money. But is it $1 billion, $10 billion, or $15 billion? I'm not qualified to run those calculations, nor do I have close to enough information to even begin.

Again, I'd like to hear your thoughts about the segment, in particular, what people *outside* of the industry are buzzing about it. After all, in the echo chamber of our industry, our opinion counts for much less than what is filtered by 60 Minutes to the mainstream.


		

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Comments

Melany Gallant

I'm one who learned nothing new. And although FB is notoriously not forthcoming as you say, I thought Zuckerberg would use the interview as an opportunity to be more open. And I expected him to provide more insight into the Beacon debacle than he did. My issue is not that they launched Beacon at all. It's the way it was launched. Almost sneaky like. And I guess I expected him to say FB would be more open with FB users going forward. I didn't get that reassurance. Naiveté on my part I suppose. Thx.

Nathan Ketsdever

I think CBS was overly hard on Mark Zuckerberg the person--calling him socially awkward was over the top. Maybe he's a bit camera shy, but socially awkward. And he did a great job of laughing off her assertions of his dropout status. Thats not too awkward if you ask me.

He dodged some questions, sure. Thats not all that unusual.

Second, on the question of if he's a good or bad CEO. Sure, Zuckerberg made some serious missteps on Beacon, but to say that makes him a bad CEO is radically unfair. In terms of revenue, given that Facebook valuations are as high as CBS (which frankly boggles the mind)--says hes a pretty decent CEO. Oh...and did you forget he's twenty freak'n three.

Paul

I think the interview was a good overview of FB and educated folks on the highlights of the FB journey so far.

I agree in principle with your thoughts that FB with challenge Google, but I believe it will be more direct that you have outlined. I have working on "penning" a draft post that outlines some of my thoughts/thesis, but am currently waiting to see a few more evolution steps to bolster it up.

The gensis of this idea if I recall correcyly was when FS was from the launch of the F8 platform and when FB highlighted how much search was performed on it platform (which it does not mention/highlight as much now). When you look at how more and more important search will become to the FB platform (as apps, usage, groups etc.. grow), you could conjecture that it/FB is in a training mode/phase of its rapidly growing user base, during FB's business growth phase.

Obviously, FB wants its site to be a destination - and Social OS - and if it pulls this off and also gets people to use search on its platform more and more often, I think it is easy for it to tier/tab out the results - and include both human/friend edited results and then to "reach out" to the Web in general.

anyways just a few thoughts,

Thx,
/P

JibberJobber Guy

The interview was cool, but this post is awesome - gotta love new media channels, to get "the story after the story." Charlene, thanks for posting your afterthoughts.

I just posted my thoughts about the interview on my Facebook blog (ImOnFacebookNowWhat.com). I wanted to point out a couple of things here, though:

First, your point about using FB as the tool it is, to get information on where to vacation, is perfect. There is too much noise from other sources, and getting information from your friends is pretty powerful.

Second, I love how the Lesley Stahl got excited about having a long-lost friend find her. That is one of the value props of social networking, and FB delivered nicely.

More random thoughts on my blog post, but you hit a lot of it really well here.

offgrid

Facebook is overcomplicating things - just run relevant Ads along-side the profile - based on centent of page.

Ravi

Hi Charlene -
Ravi from Cranbrook/Kingswood here :) A delight seeing you again on TV! No, I didn't learn anything new about Facebook, but it was a good introduction to those who aren't on it.

Keep in touch!

Josh Bernoff

As a former television analyst, I think you are being too easy on CBS.

When 60 Minutes covered Tivo (my 30 seconds of fame, with Mike Wallace) they actually got to the important business story. Mike Wallace (or more accurately, his producers) knew how to get to the story.

Sure the "mainstream" needs to know what Facebook is, and they did a good job with that. But in my experience they are good enough to go beyond the personalities and get at the significance of tech stories -- even without getting into the tech.

Let's give people more credit. We should, and 60 Minutes should, too. We can explain it without dumbing it down to whether Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard.

PPC Management

I cant believe his age is even a consideration. He created this company so his age shouldn't even be part of the equation. Users obviously feel comfortable so why is the media trying to make this an issue?

Steven Watts

In response to PPC--

The age issue crops up because there is an underlying assumption that, based on past actions (the Beacon launch) that a 23-year old CEO may be more prone to making decisions that benefit him and/or a select few, while ignoring the needs of the collective (the Facebook community), or damaging Facebook's relationship with its users. Intrusive, unsecure features that dramatically improve the corporation's net profits are NOT what most Facebooker's are looking for.

Small Business Marketing

You actually hit the nail on the head at one point and then moved away from it. The problem with Google is that it does not serve up useful information but rather data phrases that only make sense if someone can interpret them and therein lies the problem with search engines --- they serve up bits and pieces of data ---and without content experts/analysts to make sense of the data and translate it into information that we can use, we have something that has minimal usable value and that is what Google is now providing --- or like one commenter remarked...just run relevant ads along side...because Google doesn't care that it is not providing useful information.

Mystic Liquid

That ia great point about search engines. There will always be a need for that human touch when it come to results.

Mark Ivey

The 60 Minutes interview was a mixed bag for me.
It was nice that they highlighted Facebook and some of the neat things you can do with it (vs Google, as you just pointed out--a tower of babble in terms of search). Facebook is an good business story. It's amazing that a kid this young could create something with so much value and potential. However, as someone pointed out, I felt like they missed the big news story. We're really in the early phases of a paradigm shift in the way we get our information and news, and how we make decisions. The old media, from advertising to journalism, is in the cross hairs--and Facebook is one of the new breed of media leading the charge. This is a big deal, but the interview seemed more focused on Zuckenberg's age and innocence. It would have been nice if they'd interview some of the other senior brains behind FAcebook, maybe take us into some brainstorming meetings. I'm sure Zuckerberg did his best, but he's not well media trained and came off a bit flat and nerdish (ok, this is Silicon Valley). (I felt like Charlene came across well btw) Take a little of the pressure off of him and interview some other officers or VC types. I've been on many radio and tv interviews, and some of them were pretty tough but few as challenging as 60 Minutes, so it must be intimidating for a 23 year old. So I'll give him credit but give CBS a "C". I just felt like it could have been a more well rounded piece.
That's my two bits on the show.

Jorge

Facebook it's in overall an story of clean success. While Google... Well, Google is in part like Microsoft (monopoly).

Jake Matthews

Great recap Charlene. I think you are right about Google (the Search Engine) being challenged by Social as you can actually get advice - Google does not provide that.

Steven Burda

Great post & video.

www.linkedin.com/in/burda

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