Media Perspective: Facebook's sudden rise is so typical of the new landscape

This was originally supposed to be one of those "X is the new Y" pieces. New-media people (and columnists) love to do that kind of pronouncing and the recent emergence of Facebook as "the most talked-about social media thingy" provides a perfect opportunity to talk about it being "the new MySpace" and have a poke at the billions of dollars paid for it by Rupert Murdoch. As ever, though, it's rather more complicated than that.

Facebook is definitely a fantastic social media product. It's more adult than MySpace (in the good, non-smutty way), it's simpler and less startling to look at, it's less anonymous and it has recently made itself into an open platform for all the little web widgets and applications that people use to run their online lives - Twitter, Flickr, Last.fm, etc.

Usefully, for my purposes, there's also an active network of communications planners on Facebook, and I asked them what they thought of it. Not surprisingly they were big fans, but the most revealing comments were along the lines of: "Damn, I've just spent the past six months persuading my clients to invest in a campaign through MySpace and now we should probably be using Facebook instead, everyone's moving over there."

You have to feel for these people. Think of the hours they've spent toiling over a hot PowerPoint projector, cajoling, persuading, hand-holding, trying to get a careful client to devote some budget to a new-media idea. And then their client sees a slew of headlines announcing Facebook is the new MySpace.

But there's a useful lesson to learn here: Get Used To It, because this is how our lives will be from now on. You remember that scene where James Bond escapes an awful fate by leaping from one alligator's head to another until he reaches the river bank? It's going to be just like that, except without the river bank. We're just going to have to keep leaping, because things aren't about to "settle down".

We won't ever get back to a world where there are just a few dominant players, who we can just do some deals with and get back to sleep. The costs of invention are too low for entrepreneurs and the costs of switching are too low for the audience.

So Facebook might be the new MySpace, for a bit, until something else is, but it won't mean that either will disappear, or become not worth doing deals with.

We're going to have to get quicker about our planning and decision-making, more immersed in the media lives of our audiences, and we're going to have to stop looking for the new dominant media vehicle. If anyone's going to dominate, it'll be the audience, but that's a different piece for a different time.

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