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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
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Last Update on September 30, 2014 07:20 GMT
HONG KONG DEMOCRACY PROTESTS
HONG KONG (AP) -- Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong say they'll initiate new civil disobedience efforts tomorrow unless their demands for genuine democracy and the resignation of the city's unpopular chief executive are met.
The protesters spent another night blocking streets in an already unprecedented show of civil disobedience.
Even larger crowds are expected to flood the streets tomorrow, China's National Day holiday. The government says a holiday fireworks display is canceled.
Chief Executive Leung (lee-ung) Chun-ying urged the Occupy Central group today to take into account the considerations of other residents and stop its disruptive protest. And he says China's communist leaders in Beijing will not back down from an August decision to restrict voting reforms for the first direct elections to pick his successor in 2017.
The crowd, mostly students, continues to occupy a six-lane highway next to the local government headquarters.
BEIJING (AP) -- A survey has found China's manufacturing activity in September held steady at the previous month's low level, indicating the world's second-largest economy faces risks to growth.
HSBC Corp. said Tuesday its monthly purchasing managers' index stood at 50.2 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion. It was unchanged from August's 3-month low.
A measure of export orders rose to its highest level since March 2010.
China's economy grew by 7.5 percent over a year earlier in the quarter ending in June but manufacturing, housing sales and other indicators suggest growth might be weakening.
HSBC economist Hongbin Qu said in a statement, "We think risks to growth are still on the downside and warrant more accommodative monetary as well as fiscal policies."
DRUG COMPANIES-DOC PAYMENTS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is planning to release data Tuesday on drug and medical device company payments to tens of thousands of individual doctors.
The goal is to shine a light on potential ethical conflicts in medicine. Consumer groups say it's overdue, but doctors' groups fear consumers will jump to the wrong conclusions.
President Barack Obama's health care law calls for companies to report payments of $10 or more to physicians. It's a provision that has bipartisan support.
The goal is to allow patients to look up their own doctors online. That functionality won't be ready yet. But the preliminary data being released Tuesday is expected to be useful for researchers.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- A bankruptcy court auction for Revel, the failed luxury casino-hotel on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, is scheduled to resume today.
The auction that began last Wednesday was suspended due to the approach of the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Revel has refused to reveal details of what has transpired so far.
The former casino's management has received multiple bids for the property. The lone bid made public thus far is $90 million from Florida developer Glenn Straub, who envisions a gathering place for "geniuses" tackling a number of problems, with or without a casino.
The casino cost $2.4 billion to build, and had been open for just over two years before going out of business on Sept. 2.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Two supermarket companies -- Supervalu and Albertsons -- are reporting that the credit and debit card data of their shoppers may be at risk because of a hack.
The companies say that in late August or early September, malicious software was installed on networks that process card transactions at some of their stores.
Albertsons says the malware may have captured data including account numbers, card expiration dates and the names of cardholders at stores in more than a dozen states. Supervalu says the malware was installed on a network that processes card transactions at several chains, but it believes data was only taken from certain checkout lanes at four Cub Foods stores in Minnesota.
The breach could affect Albertsons stores in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; Acme Markets stores in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; Jewel-Osco stores in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa; and Shaw's and Star Markets stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The Boise, Idaho-based company has a total of 1,081 stores.
DETROIT (AP) -- Toyota says it is recalling 690,000 Tacoma pickup trucks because the rear leaf springs could break, puncture the gas tank and cause a fire.
The recall covers Tacoma Four-by-Four and Pre-Runner pickups from the 2005 through 2011 model years.
The automaker says the leaf springs can fracture due to stress and corrosion. They can move out of position and come into contact with surrounding components, including the gas tank. Toyota says it's not aware of any fires, crashes or injuries from the problem.
Owners will be notified by mail and Toyota says dealers will fix the problem at no cost.
Owners with questions can call Toyota at (800) 331-4331.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A report by federal investigators says IRS workers are often not doing all the research they are supposed to do to track down people with unpaid tax bills.
The study doesn't estimate how much money that costs the government. But it says that in 2012, the IRS declared $6.7 billion in unpaid taxes to be uncollectable because it couldn't find the taxpayer.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released the report Monday. That office is the agency that audits the IRS.
The report found that in 57 percent of 250 cases studied, there was no evidence that workers did all required research before declaring taxes uncollectable.
The IRS contested some of the study's findings. It said investigators had significantly overestimated the value of some of the unpaid taxes.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans boosted spending by a healthy amount in August, offering welcome evidence that the economy is on solid footing heading into the final quarter of the year.
The Commerce Department reports that consumer spending in August rose 0.5 percent from the previous month after showing no gain in July. It was the best result since spending also expanded 0.5 percent in June.
Helped by higher wages and salaries, income rose a modest 0.3 percent in August, slightly faster than a 0.2 percent July increase.
The acceleration in spending added to signs that the economy is sustaining strength in the current July-September quarter. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity, and the lackluster showing in July had raised concerns about whether the economy would retain the momentum it built in the spring after a harsh winter.
NEW YORK (AP) -- A New York judge has ruled that Argentina was in contempt of court on Monday for its open defiance of his orders. U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa had issued an order requiring that U.S. hedge funds holding Argentine bonds be paid the roughly $1.5 billion they are owed if the majority of the South American nation's bondholders are paid interest on their bonds.
Griesa made the announcement after a lawyer for U.S. hedge funds -- led by billionaire hedge fund investor Paul Singer's NML Capital Ltd. -- argued that Argentina has openly defied Griesa's court orders for more than a year. The judge reserved a decision on sanctions pending further proceedings.
The judge said repeated efforts to avoid paying U.S. bondholders was illegal conduct and no longer could be ignored. Griesa said that Argentina in various ways has sought "to not attend to" its financial obligations.
DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- Ford shares have tumbled after the automaker said that it will fall short of its full-year profit goals.
At a conference for investors, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker said it expects a pretax profit of around $6 billion this year, down from the $7 billion to $8 billion it previously forecast.
Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said record profits in North America aren't enough to offset trouble in South America, where Ford expects to lose $1 billion this year, and Russia, where falling sales and the rapid deterioration of the ruble took the company by surprise. Warranty costs -- including a $500 million charge for last week's recall of 850,000 vehicles for defective air bags -- are also higher than expected.
Shanks said Ford expects a pretax profit of $8.5 billion to $9.5 billion in 2015, based partly upon an expected recovery in South America and improvement in warranty costs. The company also plans fewer vehicle introductions in 2015, which will cut costs. Ford is introducing 23 vehicles worldwide this year; next year, it plans to introduce 16.
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