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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 October 21, 2014 17:19 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. homes sold in September at their fastest clip this year, yet the housing market has yet to fully shake off a slowdown that began in the middle of 2013.
The National Association of Realtors says sales of existing homes rose 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million. Still, the sales rate has dropped 1.7 percent over the past 12 months.
Investors have retreated from the market over the past year. Their departures are being offset by existing homeowners who are upgrading to more expensive properties or downsizing after having raised their children.
Rising prices through much of 2013, weak income growth and tighter credit standards have priced out many would-be buyers. Median home prices rose 5.6 percent over the past 12 months to $209,700.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Staples is looking into a potential credit card data breach and has been in touch with law enforcement officials about the issue.
The office supplies retailer said Tuesday that if it turns up any data discrepancies during its investigation, customers won't be responsible for fraudulent activity on their credit cards as long as it is reported in a timely manner.
"We take the protection of customer information very seriously, and are working to resolve the situation," spokesman Mark Cautela said in a statement.
Earlier this month Sears Holdings Corp. reported a breach at its Kmart stores that started last month, saying some customers' credit and debit cards may have been compromised. Other breaches have occurred at retailers including Target Corp., Supervalu Inc. and Home Depot Inc..
Shares of Staples Inc., based in Framingham, Massachusetts, slipped 3 cents to $12.27 in midday trading. Its shares have fallen 23 percent over the past year.
UNDATED (AP) -- Coca-Cola and McDonald's are reporting declining profits.
Coke says its third-quarter net income was $2.11 billion, down 14 percent as beverage volume rose 1 percent, thanks to an increase in non-carbonated drinks. The world's biggest beverage maker also announced a new plan that it said will reduce costs by $3 billion a year by 2019. For this year, the company said it expects earnings per share to miss its long-term target.
McDonald's saw customer traffic fall around the world. Sales took a big hit in Asia, where a major supplier was shown on TV repackaging expired beef. In the U.S., McDonald's is fighting to hold onto customers amid shifting tastes toward food people consider more wholesome.
For the quarter, revenue declined to just under $7 billion, falling short of Wall Street expectations.
Also reporting results this morning, Verizon Communications reported lower net income but higher revenue in its third quarter, helped by strong wireless subscriber growth and demand for its FiOS Internet services.
Higher cigarette prices helped cigarette maker Reynolds American's net income rise 2.2 percent in its third quarter.
MORTGAGE RISK RULES
WASHINGTON (AP) -- New U.S. rules aimed at getting banks to take on more of the risk when they package and sell mortgage securities are being relaxed with an eye to spurring broader home lending.
Federal regulators have dropped a key requirement: a 20 percent down payment from the borrower if a bank didn't hold at least 5 percent of the mortgage securities tied to those loans on its books.
The long-delayed final rules unveiled Tuesday by six federal agencies include the less stringent condition that borrowers not carry excessive debt relative to their income.
The board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt the rules.
The rules, proposed in stricter form in 2011, were mandated by the overhaul law enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates fell in 31 U.S. states in September, including many currently embroiled in tough political campaigns. The report is the final data on state unemployment before the midterm elections Nov. 4.
The Labor Department says that unemployment rates rose in 8 states and were unchanged in 11 states. That is the smallest number of states to see an increase since April.
Employers added jobs in 39 states and cut jobs in 10. South Dakota's job count changed little.
Colorado and Kentucky, two states with hard-fought Senate campaigns, experienced the biggest declines in unemployment. Colorado's fell to 4.7 percent from 5.1 percent, and Kentucky's rate dropped to 6.7 percent from 7.1 percent.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate declined to 5.9 percent in September, from 6.1 percent the previous month.
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- A North Carolina company is recalling nearly 12,000 boxes of pain relief tablets sold at Dollar Tree stores because some cartons contain a different medication that could cause allergic reactions.
Greensboro-based Contract Packaging Resources Inc. says it mistakenly placed bottles of ibuprofen inside boxes sold at Dollar Tree stores nationwide as Assured brand naproxen sodium tablets.
Some consumers buy naproxen sodium pain relievers because of allergies to ibuprofen. The packaging company says reactions that can include hives or life-threatening respiratory problems, but it hasn't received any reports of adverse reactions.
Consumers who bought 15-count boxes of 220mg Assured brand naproxen sodium tablets may return them to the store of purchase or call 336-252-3422.
CVS develops tobacco-free prescription network
First, CVS Health pulled tobacco from its store shelves. Now, it plans to make some customers think twice about filling prescriptions at other stores that still sell smokes.
The nation's second-largest drugstore chain is developing a new tobacco-free pharmacy network for clients of its Caremark pharmacy benefits management business.
The network would slap an extra co-payment on patients who fill their prescriptions at stores that still sell tobacco. That payment won't apply to prescriptions filled in the tobacco-free network, which would include CVS and Target locations nationally, as well as other pharmacies that abstain. Target Corp. gave up tobacco sales in 1996.
CVS national rivals Walgreen Co. and Rite Aid Corp. still sell tobacco.
The tobacco-free network will only be used by the pharmacy-benefit management customers that choose it.
DALLAS (AP) -- Kimberly-Clark plans to eliminate up to 1,300 jobs as part of restructuring efforts aimed at reducing costs and making its business more efficient.
The consumer products company has 58,000 workers worldwide, according to its website.
Kimberly-Clark Corp. said Tuesday that it anticipates restructuring costs between $130 million and $160 million, after taxes. The company -- whose brands include Kleenex and Huggies -- foresees between $120 million and $140 million in savings by the end of 2017.
The restructuring is expected to be completed by 2016's end.
Kimberly-Clark also cut its 2014 adjusted profit forecast to account for the spinoff of its health care business. The Dallas company now expects an adjusted profit between $5.93 and $6.03 per share, down from its prior range of $6 to $6.15 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expect $6.06 per share.
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