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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 July 23, 2014 07:42 GMT
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Asian stock markets posted moderate gains today, bolstered by solid U.S. earnings and home sales.
Indonesian stocks advanced after the official vote count showed Joko Widodo the clear winner of a bitterly contested presidential election.
Markets have been roiled the past week by heightened tensions between Russia and the West after a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists, killing all 298 people on board. The tensions eased Tuesday after the separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the aircraft's black boxes.
The focus of investors was returning to earnings, with hundreds of U.S. companies set to report quarterly results this week. Many of the U.S. earnings reports have been positive so far.
Benchmark crude oil fell to just above $102 a barrel.
The dollar edged up against the euro and fell against the yen.
SEC-MONEY MARKET FUNDS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Regulators are expected to vote Wednesday to end a longtime staple of the investment industry -- the fixed $1 share price for money-market mutual funds -- at least for some money funds used by big investors.
The idea is to minimize the risk of a mass withdrawal from the funds during a financial panic. The Securities and Exchange Commission may also vote to let money funds block withdrawals during periods of stress or impose new fees for withdrawals.
The "breaking of the buck" by a large money fund during the 2008 crisis stoked a run on some other funds and forced the government to intervene to restore confidence.
Under the new rules, the share prices of the funds involved will be required to "float," just as with other mutual funds. Big institutional investors could lose principal if the value of the shares falls below $1. Individual investors likely won't be affected.
NEW YORK (AP) -- A law enforcement official and the company say cyber thieves got into more than 1,000 StubHub customers' accounts and fraudulently bought tickets for events through the online ticket reseller.
The official says arrests are expected in a case that sprawled across international borders.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. is expected to hold a news conference today with London and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officials. The case comes amid growing concern about data thieves targeting retailers and other consumer giants.
StubHub, which is based in San Francisco, says that the thieves didn't break through its security -- rather, they got account-holders' login and password information from data breaches at other websites and retailers or from key-loggers or other malware on the customers' computers.
The company detected the unauthorized transactions last year, contacted authorities and gave the affected customers refunds and help changing their passwords.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Apple's growth prospects are looking brighter as anticipation builds for the upcoming release of the next iPhone, a model that is expected to cater to consumers yearning for a bigger screen.
The latest evidence of Apple's mounting momentum emerged Tuesday with the release of the company's fiscal third-quarter report.
Earnings rose at the highest rate in nearly two years as Apple Inc. sold 35.2 million iPhones during the period. The iPhone shipments climbed 13 percent increase from the same time last year, even though many people are believed to be holding off on new device purchases until the next version comes out this fall.
Apple earned $7.7 billion, or $1.28 per share, for the three months ending June 28. That represented a 12 percent increase from income of $6.9 billion, or $1.07 per share, at the same time last year. It's the first time that Apple's earnings have increased by more than 10 percent since the quarter that included the September 2012 release of the iPhone 5 -- the last time that the company boosted the device's screen size.
DETROIT (AP) -- Chrysler is recalling up to 792,300 older Jeep SUVs worldwide because the ignition switches could cause engine stalling.
Tuesday's recall covers 2005-2007 Grand Cherokees and 2006-2007 Commanders.
Chrysler says it's not sure exactly how many will be recalled. The company says an outside force such as a driver's knee can knock switches out of the "run" position, shutting off the engine. This disables power-assisted steering and braking and the front air bags might not inflate.
Engineers are working on a fix. Chrysler says it knows of no injuries and only one accident. The company says only a few complaints have been filed. Owners should keep clearance between their knees and keys until repairs are made.
The recall comes as U.S. safety regulators investigate ignition switch problems across the auto industry.
EXXON MOBIL-GAY RIGHTS
IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. has said that it will comply with the new protections for gay and transgender employees required of federal contractors, while still sidestepping the question of whether it will formalize that by changing the language of its corporate policy.
Following President Barack Obama's signing of an executive order Monday expanding protections for federal workers and contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Labor Department has 90 days to issue regulations for how employers must comply.
According to government records, Exxon has won more than $480 million in federal contracts in 2013 and more than $8 billion since 2006. The company has long resisted pressure from civil rights groups and shareholders to enumerate such protections in its formal policy.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says that as the economy adds new jobs, Americans must have the skills to fill them
At a signing ceremony for bipartisan job-training legislation aimed at improving business engagement and accountability in federally funded programs. Obama said that it will give states and cities more flexibility in managing their job-training programs.
The White House used the occasion Tuesday to release a six-month review of federal job-training programs. The review concludes that the government needs to better engage U.S. employers, improve the use of data, and boost apprenticeship programs so workers can earn while they train. The report said the government is working to tailor training and grants to better match jobs that are in demand.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- The Saudi government has approved a measure that will open the region's largest stock market to direct foreign investment next year, news that sent the exchange surging to its highest level in nearly seven years.
The Tadawul All Share Index closed up nearly 3 percent.
The Cabinet's decision Monday, reported by the official Saudi Press Agency, paves the way for foreign financial institutions to directly buy and sell stocks listed on Saudi Arabia's $530 billion Tadawul All Share Index starting sometime in the first half of 2015.
Foreign investors outside the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council currently can buy Saudi stocks through swaps and exchange-traded funds.
NEW YORK (AP) -- LinkedIn Corp. is spending $175 million to buy Bizo, a provider of advertising technology and measurement services aimed at professionals.
LinkedIn said Tuesday that it is paying 90 percent in cash and the rest in stock for San Francisco-based Bizo. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter. Founded in 2008, Bizo lets marketers target professionals with ads they want them to see, and helps measure the effectiveness of the ad campaigns.
LinkedIn, a professional networking service based in Mountain View, California, has more than 300 million users. The deal comes a day after Yahoo Inc. announced that it is buying Flurry Inc., which helps companies make mobile apps and design mobile ad campaigns.
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