My buddy JB Slear, who’s my commodity guy, made an interesting observation here last week. He was asking if I had noticed a general decline in the amount of mail people are sending – and that includes junk mail.
Frankly, I hadn’t given it much thought, but when a commodity broker (who has a 10-foot high banana tree in his living room, by the way) takes time out from trading and writing his traders column – well, that set me to thinking, even if it was the weekend.
After going through some exercising of the brain cells and such, a startling fact arose: JB was Right!
There has been a decline – a long, slow one, perhaps starting in 2012 – of the amount of junk email that’s come in. And, unless I have signed up for alerts from like a Google News or a Trulia, the number of people sending unsolicited emails is really starting to drop…your mileage may vary, however.
This is something that I’d anticipated would arrive, sooner or later, and I wrote as much in my book “Broken Web: The Coming Collapse of the Internet.”
It’s possible that some of the decline is due to increasing government regulation of the net: The New Yorker had a good article on point about how it’s becoming popular for “authorities” to restrict internet use and comment.
Another factor is the proliferation of new digital time-wasters. I pay scant attention to my Facebook page, or my Google Plus page, but that’s because I’m time constrained and don’t feel like making a free contribution to the website owners getting rich instead of me. I am, after all, the one getting up at 4 AM to figure things out, so why should I steer you to some one else’s website where they will monetize you six-ways to Sunday….
It’s quite the switcheroo of a business model, when you kick back and look at it, as we did on the Peoplenomics side of things a number of months ago: It is a business model that depends on people’s time and habit-forming in order to make money.
Here’s how it works: Suppose this morning you and I do a little bit of coding and start up FaceGeorge.
We make the service initially free. And we make it fill some kind of social hole in the soul. A need, for example, of nearly everyone in America to sound off, be heard, and become famous.
After a few years, we have more users than you can shake a stick at. The whole world is now going to FaceGeorge as the hottest social platform out there. ( thought about GeorgeBook, too)
So now I take the big companies (who are using FaceGeorge) and I send them out ransom demand notes: You either pay me, or only 7 of your 3-million customers will get emails about that brand new zillion-dollar product introduction you have planned and posted on FG….
Money-grubbing Kapitalists are anxious to pay…whatever it takes.
It works for a while (holding third party customers hostage from the companies that brought them to FaceGeorge in the first place. But over time, companies wake up and decide to do some other kind of social.
Websites that don’t use social have been historically penalized by Google in rankings…and perhaps is because we eschew using social media that UrbanSurvival traffic has been declining (slowly, thankfully_) sine the Internet Social Bubble peaked in about 2011/2012.
But peak is what it seems to be doing.
One driver is companies are trying to do a better job of keeping all customer needs met on their own web properties. I finally decided to relent last week and open up UrbanSurvival for comments. You can make comments on anything you want, but the main reason is to fine tune our content, direction, and improve customer service.
Another driver for the decline in “old line” social is that there are literally no barriers to entry. I can assure you that with start-up capital of $10,000 you and I could start up a social platform of some kind and that would bring us some money. Just maybe not enough to do an IPO…
And this gets us to a very interesting “Gotcha” for people who predict the future. You may remember a few years back there was a lot of talk about 2012 of a coming catastrophe and how there would be lots of people moving north and diaspora was going to impact us all hugely.
The good news is that it hasn’t been a physical diaspora, but it has been a virtual one. People who used to be fully present and conscious are now plugged into their cell/mobiles tor ridiculous hours each day.
The net human migration from local face-time with people to the virtual sort has been incredible.
Not that it has made us any better…just different.
Yet you look at fads and you’ll find a national (US) ramp up takes about 6-years (Hoola Hoops, 19i57-1963 ramp-up) and if there is not existing infrastructure, perhaps 7-8 years internationally.
Alth0ough Part 15 of the FCC allowed for CB Radio (a much longer fad) from 1947 until it collapsed with the arrival of cell phones in the 1980’s) it was still almost a 30-year fad.
But we look at when fads peak: When they are on television is a good indicator. And when a replacement technology comes along, is another. With social media, I would think that the flurry of IPOs is a good sign as to when a fad is peaking.
On March 27th, Yahoo reported the closing price of the Social Media ETF SOCL as $19.35.
On Friday of last week it closed at $18.01.
To be sure, it has been higher…the 52 week high was $23 and the low $16.12. Even in a sideways market, there will always be people who can spot a bargain and sense a top.
But the decline JB noted on the amount of junk email coming in may mean something much larger. We could be starting down the slippery slope of a passing fad.
There’s a reason Santa’s credit card is not bulging with Hoola Hoops and CB radios this year.
We pride ourselves as smart people, generally. But when barriers to entry fall, as I wrote in the fall of 1999 in an article Death by Dot Coms, things quickly turn down.
- In 1832 a panic hit the US and was caused by the emergence of automation in the linen business. As textile prices dropped like a free-falling safe (through the early 1840’s) the supply-demand equilibrium was set to the breaking point and a panic ensued.
- In 1873, the rightful freedom for 7 million Blacks, liberated by the Civil War, coupled with the front end of a huge immigration from Europe, that caused excessive labor in northern cities and pricing power collapsed as working wages fell. Naturally, financial panic ensued. The over-supply of labor echoed in the 1897 panic, too.
- In 1929, the crash occurred when farmers, who had produced 7 million horses a year in 1920, planted excess grains as horse demand died in the 1920’s thanks to Henry’s Fords. This drove down commodity prices, and although low commodity prices fueled the Roaring Twenties, the back end of the deal was that the worst depression ever followed.
Each time we have seen barriers fail, there has been a major and rapid decline in general public well-being unless a series of sequential bubbles occurs, or war works, too.
Thus the 1987 mini-crash led (indirectly) to Desert Storm, and the Internet Bubble led to 9/11, the I-Wrong war, and the Housing Bubble.
It’s just how history works out…so when we look at Social Hoops, and CB Media, pardon me if we all take comfort knowing “This, too, shall pass…”
Ain’t no point to Social Media if it doesn’t change anything…and judging by the slam-dunk of the feral (sic) budget this weekend, I’d venture social media has been a great “steam let’er-off’er that simply keeps the old line Ruling Class in place.
You will see we have finally started to provide for comments. They will be reviewed a couple of times a day (as time permits, but likely not until this afternoon because of a busy schedule).
The idea is to collect topic, site, direction, and anything else that may come to mind. Good manners and PG-13 language is appreciated. OK, R-17 then…
The Pechewzelwhacker’s Diary
Yet more trivia relating to the origins of this particular term: Reader Jim (who was laid up with the creeping death) sent in this linguini note: (*when you read this site long enough you’ll instantly figure out the correct word is linguistic but we’re just word play’in…)
So the reason of my note was the statement from another reader saying that “Google doesn’t think pechewzelwhacker is a word.”. When I read that I was immediately taken back to my childhood when the accepted term for that part of the male anatomy in our house was “Tallywhacker“. Use of the other unsavory names would result in a ass whuppin and time in the corner or anywhere I could not access any of my toys, tools, hunting & fishing gear and such.
This term followed me to my family, 2 girls & 2 knuckleheads. One day when knucklehead #1 was about 6 or 7 we were out back playing some catch getting ready for a baseball game later in the day. A couple of neighbor boys joined us over the fence but being older they were a little overwhelming in their tosses. One catch was missed and ended up hitting knucklhead #1 guess where? Anyway he went on to start yelling that he was hit in the tallywhacker at the top of his lungs. He could be heard several blocks away.
I told him not to worry it would stop hurting in a while to which he answered that if it didn’t he would just go get another one. WTF?!!!!!!! So I had to ask where would one go to get a new tallywhacker? Knucklehead #1 just looked at me like I was some dimbulb and said “At the tallywhacker store.”
Took several minutes for the neighbor boys and myself to stop laughing our tallywhackers off.
Hate to say it, Jim, but Knucklehead #1 was ahead of the game: You can shop for tallywhacker modifications such as prosthetics, replacements, and whole gender changes in the Bay area and other large metros.
This is “progress” and he probably heard it all at school. Just sayin…We live in the End Times of Consumer Super-saturation where even gender preference is fair game for predatory marketers. BTW if 1-800-TALLYWHACKER taken?
We might want to ask “Is this the next bubble?” Kind of like Tattoo marketing…where people don’t realize how they are “similarly different…” Society is a bit slow, though, which makes it easy for us to be ruled:
Divided, conquered, and sold another bill of goods. Is it too early to get in on the ground floor of the tattoo removal business?
Write (or comment) when you break-even or if you need the ship-to address for that new Ferrari you’re getting us for Christmas…