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.