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User Burnout Could Threaten Twitter's Prosperity
By Ryan Nakashima, AP Business Writer
AP File Photo: Megan Fox left nearly a million followers dangling when she checked out of Twitter in January, explaining that “Facebook is as much as I can handle.” Twitter burnout among celebrities, athletes and shameless self-promoters poses a risk to the company and its investors as Twitter Inc. prepares for its Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 initial public offering.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- They loved it. Now they hate it.
A growing number of celebrities, athletes and self-promoters are burnt out and signing off of Twitter. Many have gotten overwhelmed.
Some people built big audiences on the short messaging service only to have their followers turn against them. Others complain that tweets that once drew lots of attention now get lost in the noise.
As Twitter Inc. prepares to go public this week, the company is selling potential investors on the idea that its user base of 232 million will continue to grow along with the 500 million tweets that are sent each day. The company's revenue depends on ads it inserts into the stream of messages.
But Wall Street could lose its big bet on social media if prolific tweeters lose their voice.
Evidence of Twitter burnout isn't hard to find. Just look at the celebrities who - at one time or another - have taken a break from the service. The long list includes everyone from Alec Baldwin to Miley Cyrus to "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof.
Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt lamented "all the negativity" she saw on the service when she quit, temporarily, in July. Actress Megan Fox left nearly a million followers dangling when she checked out in January, explaining that "Facebook is as much as I can handle." Pop star John Mayer deleted his account in 2011, saying Twitter absorbed so much of his thinking, he couldn't write a song.
"I was a tweetaholic," he told students during a talk at the Berklee College of Music.
If Twitter turns off celebrities who have a financial incentive to stay in close contact with fans, how can the company prevent average users from becoming disenchanted?
For some users, Twitter tiredness sets in slowly. At first, they enjoy seeing their tweets of 140 characters or less bounce around the Web with retweets and favorites. But new connections soon get overwhelming. Obligation sets in - not only to post more, but to reply to followers and read their tweets.
Many users conclude that Twitter is a time-sucking seduction and turn away. One who calls herself patrilla$$$thrilla excitedly tweeted "first tweet, wocka wocka" just after she joined in July.
On Wednesday, 161 tweets and 27 followers later, the romance was over. She quit to "fully enjoy the little details in life I miss because I'm too busy here," she tweeted.
The cacophony creeps into everyday life. Twitter fanatics tweet from the dinner table, during a movie, in the bathroom, in bed. Vacations can seem like time wasted not tweeting.
The over-doers suffer from a "fear of missing out" (or FOMO), says Tom Edwards, vice president at themarketingarm, a Dallas-based advertising agency. "Managing our virtual personas, including all of the etiquette that comes with, can be tiresome, especially for those with large followings."
It happens -even to people who ought to know better. Just ask Gary Schirr, an assistant professor who teaches a course on social media at Radford University.
In August, while vacationing on a beach, Schirr felt a pang of withdrawal because he had stopped tweeting to his 70,000-plus followers. Then he saw an old condemned house about to be washed away and posted a photo to Facebook and Twitter. He felt relieved when the likes and retweets rolled in.
"You feel forgotten if you're not out there," he says. "It's another sign of addiction. You feel bad if you don't tweet."
Prolific tweeters stay engaged partly because there are real benefits to a big following, which usually requires tweeting a lot.
Journalists who have large Twitter followings have used them to land better-paying jobs because every click on stories can make more money for their new employer. Actors can land roles on TV or the movies if their digital audience is expected to tag along.
Matt Lewis, a columnist with The Week magazine, says his Twitter following is like "portable equity" that gave him an edge over more established writers earlier in his career. He's now got nearly 33,000 followers.
Even so, one of Lewis' more popular stories is titled "Why I hate Twitter." It goes into why the social network became, for him, "a dark place" overrun by "angry cynics and partisan cranks." He became demoralized by the criticism, but he couldn't pull himself away.
"It's also like a prison. You can't check out," he says.
Today, Lewis rarely interacts with his followers and hopes the service will come up with new ways to filter out the hate tweets. "Why should I be harassed if I look at my (at) button?" he says.
But he remains amazed at how Twitter has helped him reach new readers, and after some 67,000 tweets, he isn't giving it up.
Others find that as more people join the service, the deluge of tweets can drown out individual voices.
So says Bob Lefsetz, a music industry analyst who writes an email column titled the Lefsetz Letter.
Twitter, he wrote in July, is "toast." "Over. Done. History." His follower count isn't rising as quickly as before, although it's still a respectable 57,000-plus. And his tweets don't see as much action as in the past, which he attributes to too many people tweeting "too much irrelevant information."
"In the old days, I'd get 20 retweets. Now I'll get none," Lefsetz says. "It makes me not want to play."
Along with the potential for burnout, there's also the risk that Twitter becomes uncool to the younger generation, especially when services such as Pinterest and Instagram are a tap away.
Devon Powers, an assistant professor of communications at Drexel University, says many of her students have moved on to Snapchat. But there can still be pressure to keep up with the other services.
"There's all these new obligations to update and report and check in," she says. It can make dropping offline feel like a relief.
"If I get really busy, the first thing I stop doing is checking Twitter," she says. "I'm living my life. I'm not having a commentary about it."
Follow Ryan Nakashima on Twitter at https://twitter.com/rnakashi
More Business News
Last Update on March 07, 2014 18:27 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. hiring improved in February from the previous two months despite a blast of wintry weather, likely renewing hopes that growth will accelerate this year.
The Labor Department says employers added 175,000 jobs last month, up from just 129,000 in January, which was revised up from 113,000.
The unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low 6.6 percent. More Americans started looking for work but didn't find jobs. That's still an encouraging sign because more job hunters suggest that people were more optimistic about their prospects.
The figures were a welcome surprise after recent economic reports showed that harsh weather closed factories, lowered auto sales, and caused existing-home sales to plummet.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. trade deficit widened slightly in January as a rise in imports of oil and other foreign goods offset a solid increase in exports.
The Commerce Department says the trade deficit increased to $39.1 billion, up 0.3 percent from December's revised $39 billion deficit.
Exports climbed 0.6 percent to $192.8 billion, led by increased sales of U.S.-made machinery, aircraft and medical equipment. Imports also rose 0.6 percent to $231.6 billion, reflecting a 9 percent jump in imports of petroleum. Imports of food and machinery also rose.
The trade deficit is the difference between imports and exports. A higher trade deficit acts as a drag on economic growth because it means U.S. companies are making less overseas then their foreign competitors are earning in U.S. sales.
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- L.L. Bean says it had a record year for profits and saw revenue growth of 3 percent.
CEO Chris McCormick told workers on Friday that after four consecutive years of growth, the Maine-based retailer is ready to accelerate expansion plans. He says the privately held company plans its largest single-year capital investment and will spend an additional $100 million on website changes, retail expansion and business systems.
The company's performance beat the industry average.
L.L. Bean's board was happy enough with the revenue gain to authorize an 8 percent bonus for full-time workers. That's the biggest bonus since 2005.
In a memo to Bean's 5,100 full- and part-time workers, McCormick said the company has been conservative for the past few years and is now ready to "grab market share."
NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Coupons.com are close to doubling in their first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
The stock gained $14.40, or 90 percent, to $30.40 in morning trading.
Coupons.com Inc. delivers digital coupons and coupon codes to consumers. It priced its initial public offering of 10.5 million shares at $16 per share. The company had initially expected to offer 10 million shares and expected them to be priced between $12 and $14 per share.
The Mountain View, Calif., company raised $168 million from the IPO.
Coupons.com had 2013 revenue of $167.9 million, up from $112.1 million in the prior year.
The stock is trading under the "COUP" ticker symbol.
CHILD SEAT RECALL
DETROIT (AP) -- The federal government is ordering child seat maker Graco to explain why it didn't include 1.8 million infant seats in a recall for faulty buckles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says Graco has until March 20 to explain why last month's recall of 3.8 million child seats didn't include infant seats, which have the same buckles that can get stuck on the child seats.
Graco has said the child seat buckles get stuck because children drop food or drinks on them. It is sending replacement buckles to owners for free. It will also send replacement buckles for infant seats if owners request them.
NHTSA says Graco will face fines of $7,000 per day if its response is late or incomplete.
Graco said Friday it will comply with the request for an explanation.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- A federal audit finds New Jersey did nothing wrong when it used a no-bid contract to hire a firm to clean up debris left behind by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
But the U.S. Homeland Security Department says that towns that continued to use the firm for more than 60 days without putting the work out to bid might not be fully reimbursed by the federal government.
The contract and the firm, Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based AshBritt, drew the ire of lawmakers months after Sandy struck. That marked the first major political debate over how Gov. Chris Christie's administration responded to Sandy.
The audit was made public Thursday by Christie's office.
Christie's office criticized Democrats and the media for treating the contract as a scandal.
MIAMI (AP) -- A former law partner of convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein has been charged with conspiring to violate federal campaign contribution laws.
Court records show charges were filed Friday against Russell Adler, who was a principal in the now-defunct Fort Lauderdale law firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler. The firm was liquidated after Rothstein's $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme was exposed in fall 2009.
Adler is charged with helping orchestrate thousands of dollars in bundled contributions from the firm's employees and attorneys to John McCain's 2008 campaign for president and Charlie Crist's run for the U.S. Senate. The contributions were illegally reimbursed by the law firm.
There is no indication that McCain or Crist knew of the illegal scheme. Adler has consistently denied wrongdoing.
Rothstein is serving a 50-year prison sentence.
Company confirms feds investigate visa use
An international tech consulting firm confirms the federal government is investigating its use of U.S. work visas.
A Mu Sigma spokeswoman told The Associated Press authorities asked the company to provide information related to its visas, and the company is cooperating fully.
Privately held Mu Sigma is headquartered in Illinois. CEO Dhiraj Rajaram also runs the company from offices in India.
Federal records show the company has brought in nearly 150 H-1B temporary workers since 2009. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
The company declined to clarify whether the investigation is targeting H-1B or business visas.
Last year, tech giant Infosys settled a federal case for $34 million over allegations it used business visas to bring in temporary workers hired out for consulting work.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent's pay fell 16 percent last year because his performance-based bonus took a hit.
Muhtar Kent's pay package was worth $18.2 million for 2013, according to a regulatory filing made with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday. That's down from the $21.6 million he earned the previous year.
The decline was primarily the result of a lower performance-based bonus, which fell to $2.2 million, from $6 million the previous year. That was the result of lower sales volume growth of just 2 percent for the year, compared with 4 percent the previous year.
A new cap was also put into place for the bonus, based on feedback from shareholders.
The AP's calculation counts salary, bonuses, perks, stock and options awarded to the executive during the year.
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