The Repetitive Sameness of Social Media

May 27, 2024

Mastodon’s secret sauce might be that it declined to use algorithms to sort your content. While the slot machine appeal of Facebook or Instagram leaves me checking their apps hoping for something fresh, they rarely deliver. I have nearly exhausted the well of DIY and construction content on Instagram. Travel influencers can only post so many photo worthy pools and cocktails before they stop impressing. It used to be nice to use apps like Threads or Facebook to find news articles, but now that everything is behind a paywall it is not worth my time.

Why It Matters

Tech’s favorite metric is the Monthly Active User (MAU). I think we should question the value of this metric. There is a qualitative difference between a person that shows up looking to find good content, and a person who finds that content and spends time consuming it. If I was an investor I would start asking Meta and others for average time spent viewing content. To build a durable business unit you want to be good at discovery, retention, and content production.

Streaming Services are Bad at Discovery

Today I logged into the NBC Sports app and it was absolute chaos. I was greeted by the option to watch Shark Tank live on a sports app, while I was trying to find the Boston Celtics game. It took a while to figure out that the game was on ESPN. No wonder Netflix is running circles around most of its competitors. Many streaming services, like NBC Sports, simply struggle to surface to good content.

Social Media Companies are Bad at Content

I remember around 2013 when filmmaker Casey Neistat cracked open the “daily vlog” style of posting video that dominated YouTube and now has been translated to Instagram and TikTok. Despite some of its popularity, much of this content does not live up to the high bar Neistat set. As social media companies have shifted from showing friend content to these “influencers” they largely seem to be driven by a desire by the public to have a window in how the well to do and attractive folks are living.

The Inevitable Conclusion…

Either social media companies start creating their own media, or they buy an existing media company. Conversely I could see a juggernaut of an existing media company buy the corpse of a dying social media company and use its technology to fuel discovery of its back catalog.

Want to get posts like this in your email?

This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.