Sometimes it happens so fast, that even the most tuned-in observers don't see it. And as we saw in our Technology Web Poll earlier in 2005, speed and critical mass have come together in many ways.
Take the iPod, for example. Mp3 players had been around for some time, but Steve Jobs' vision (and marketing savvy) propelled the iPod into a true cultural phenomenon that continues to grow. How fast? In that poll, we were able to capture the extraordinary upward arc of iPod ownership, but we neglected to include a question about podcasting. Remember, the questionnaire was written in January. Sixty days later, podcasting was just begininng to become a household word.
Then there's the "cell phone only" phenomenon. Arbitron will tell you (accurately) that they've been studying this problem, as it affects their methodology. But they will also tell you that its meteoric rise is truly amazing. And like iPods, there's no end in sight.
Which leads me to MySpace.com, an Internet story that borders on the incredible. Created two years ago, MySpace has become the Internet's social networking site - a place where millions of teens and twentysomethings come together to blog, share personal home pages, and put together groups of friends in a sort of network. How many millions? Around 27 million members who pay nothing to participate. (Hey, radio owners: they make their money with banner ads. Rupert Murdoch was impressed. He just bought MySpace's parent company for $580 million).
How fast are we talking? MySpace has increased its membership 400% year-to-date. Once again in this techno-driven age, another turbo-charged media rocket has virtually come out of nowhere.
MySpace is yet another reason why youth-based radio's challenge for TSL and the minds of consumers keeps getting more difficult. LIke iPods, MySpace consumes time, and there's only so much of it to go around.
As MySpace grows, its originators, Chris De Wofe and Tom Anderson, are fighting hard to maintain its credibility and grassroots charm. MySpace is starting its own record label (it's NOT just happening at Starbucks), and Anderson is searching for bands that fit the bill. When new bands ask about how MySpace will secure video time on MTV, he thinks about the millions that are hooked on his site, and as he tells the New York Times, "It's kind of like, who cares about MTV anymore?"