A view from Staff

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Is Apple's Ping entering the social networking scene too late?

On 3 September, Apple launched Ping, a social network offering music-recommendation and sharing features within iTunes. The iTunes store worldwide has more than 160m registered log-ins.


I'm typing this on an iPad having read the question on my iPhone. I have an iMac; and a Touch; and a plain old iPod. Will anything that Apple releases be 'too late'? No, of course not.

It can release a phone that doesn't phone people, and it doesn't matter, because you can add a 'bumper' two months later (a little like posting the steering wheel to a new car owner eight weeks after they've bought it).

So nothing's ever too late for Apple. That's why it'll work, not because it's innovative, different or ground-breaking. It's not. It feels like someone in a big glass office in California said: 'Bob, go make me one of those fancy new social networking sites.'

Yet Apple has a knack of making me want to do something. I sat in front of my iMac a few days ago and Ping pinged up. It asked me questions that I didn't want to answer and I knew I didn't need any more of this stuff.

So I rejected it. For now. But it's Apple - and it's never too late.


Can Facebook shut out every other social network wannabe? Surely there's room for arrivals offering new levels of functionality and experience. After all, this is the fastest-evolving area of consumer behaviour and consumers are nothing if not fickle.

So, Ping. If your music defines you, then music as your social network has to have merit. MySpace failed to offer a pay-for-download option to capitalise on the popularity of major artists' pages. How many Spotify subscribers do you know compared with iTunes account-holders? The continued development of iTunes has made it untouchable as the online community for music (and movies, podcasts and TV). It's in this success, and its 160m users, that the potential of Ping lies.

It's perfectly on-brand, provides an all-encompassing, 'everything in one place' experience and comes across as a concept conceived from a considered view of how Twitter, Facebook, Spotify and Last.fm work for their users.

Besides, if Steve Jobs thinks it's a good idea, it probably is.


As a self-confessed Apple geek, I can usually forgive it anything. I have to admit to devouring every invention the sartorially challenged Mr Jobs sets forth into the world; much to the merriment of my friends and colleagues.

For me, though, it's not a question of whether it has grasped the social media nettle too late; rather, whether the true ideal of social media is alien to Apple's culture and genetics. It is a ruthlessly private organisation and protects the secrecy of its products until it alone decides the world is ready for them. That will be its social media downfall.

There is an appetite for music as a social media currency and mflow, Spotify and Last.fm already provide a platform for this. Creating a social platform within the solid walls of iTunes will not sit well with the free-state principles that social media early-adopters hold dear. If Ping is to capture the public imagination, it must embrace the open API structure that has made Twitter such a powerful force.

I'm just not sure Jobs could bring himself to cede that level of control.

NO - JASON CARTER, Managing partner - digital, Universal McCann

Ping is conspicuously late to the party and at first glance its entrance doesn't seem worth the wait. Social music discovery and sharing playlists are nothing new; neither are recommendations from musos.

In typical Apple control-freakiness, Ping is skewed toward the major labels and confined to Apple's ecosystem. Steve Jobs continues his habit of falling out with those who don't see things through his Apple-tinted glasses, hence no integration with Facebook. Many are getting fed up with Apple's lack of integration with other technologies - buy an iPad and see how much online video you can watch to see what I mean.

Sometimes, however, it pays to be fashionably late, and to many, Apple is still the epitome of cool, so it will probably get away with it. As it stands, Ping will be a success not because of its uniqueness or slick features - it'll do ok because 160m of us are shackled to iTunes and will simply turn it on.

- The Marketing Society is the most influential network of senior marketers dedicated to inspiring bolder marketing leadership.