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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 November 21, 2014 08:31 GMT
FEDERAL RESERVE-TOO COZY?
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve says it will review how it oversees the biggest U.S. banks amid criticism that it has grown too close to the financial institutions it is charged with regulating.
The Fed announced the review late Thursday. On Friday, a Senate subcommittee will hold a hearing on whether Fed examiners -- particularly in its New York operation -- have become too cozy with the big banks they oversee.
The central bank said the review will examine whether its decision-makers get the information they need to make good decisions in their inspection and oversight of banks. It also will look at the Fed's internal culture, and whether dissenting views related to oversight are stifled.
The bailout of Wall Street banks during the 2008 financial crisis brought the issue forward.
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Japan's return to recession has renewed questions about the effectiveness of its recent monetary stimulus -- and how anything similar would help Europe's struggling economy.
The European Central Bank is edging toward the same kind of large-scale bond purchases that the Bank of Japan has used. Proponents say the measure, typically used as a last resort by central banks, could boost the shaky eurozone recovery by reducing borrowing costs for businesses, households and governments.
Yet Japan's recession underlines the limits of so-called quantitative easing, or QE, which involves pumping newly created money into the economy through bond purchases.
The step may give the eurozone a marginal boost by keeping the euro's exchange rate down, putting a lid on borrowing costs for the foreseeable future and generating some wealth effects.
However, few economists think it will provide a magic solution -- especially if governments like those in France and Italy don't make their economies more business-friendly, and if countries keep trying to reduce debt through austerity cuts.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Negotiations over a new contract for dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports took an unexpected turn Thursday, as the union insisted on "small table" talks while employers decried the "extended break."
The full teams for the longshoreman's union and the association representing trans-ocean shipping lines and operators of port terminals aren't scheduled to meet again until Dec. 2.
The maritime association called the development a "slowdown tactic" -- a pointed reference to their complaints that dockworkers are deliberately dragging as they load and unload ships.
Public pressure has been mounting to resolve labor strife at ports that handle billions of dollars of imports and exports each day.
A union spokesman said negotiations were going well and the change was a chance to tackle tough issues in small groups.
DETROIT (AP) -- The government is telling Chrysler to speed up its recall of 1.5 million older Jeeps with gas tanks that can rupture in a rear collision.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent a letter to Chrysler saying that only 3 percent of the Jeeps have been fixed, more than a year after the recall began.
The Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys have gas tanks behind the rear axles that can rupture in rear collisions and catch fire. The remedy is to install a trailer hitch to protect the tanks in low-speed collisions. At least 51 people have died in crashes due to the problem.
The letter says Jeep owners have complained about being turned away by dealers for lack of parts.
Chrysler says it's redoubling efforts to get ship parts.
DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors is promoting its purchasing chief to be head of quality as part of a management shake-up.
The move comes after all GM brands but Buick performed worse than average in this year's Consumer Reports auto reliability survey.
Quality and customer experience head Alicia Boler-Davis will remain a senior vice president, but will no longer lead quality. She's now in charge of a department that handles GM's interactions with its customers.
Purchasing head Grace Lieblein takes over as vice president of global quality.
Both executives report to CEO Mary Barra.
Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet all scored below average in the Consumer Reports survey revealed last month. GMC fell 10 places largely due to problems with the new Sierra pickup. Buick was the top brand from a U.S.-based automaker.
LONDON (AP) -- Financial services startup Square is taking aim at cash registers across the globe, making its point-of-sale software available internationally in English, Spanish, French and Japanese.
The company, whose small cubic credit card reader can be used to turn a smartphone or a tablet into a portable sized till, isn't yet offering the distinctively shaped piece of hardware in Europe, CEO Jack Dorsey said at a press event in London on Thursday.
Dorsey, who co-founded Twitter Inc., declined to give a timeline for when the hardware would be available for Square's new international users.
Square says that its app -- available for Android and Apple devices -- now supports 130 currencies.
KOZY SHACK-PUDDING RECALL
ARDEN HILLS, Minn. (AP) -- Pudding maker Kozy Shack Enterprises is recalling some of its puddings because they are not labeled as containing milk.
The voluntary recall involves 4-ounce cups of Foodservice Kozy Shack Simply Well Chocolate Pudding.
The recalled pudding was distributed through foodservice distribution channels and not sold in retail stores.
The product was distributed to 20 states -- Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Minnesota-based cooperative Land O'Lakes owns Kozy Shack Enterprises.
AT&T pays $23.8 M to settle hazardous waste case
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- AT&T has agreed to pay California authorities nearly $24 million to settle allegations that it improperly disposed of hazardous waste during a nine-year period.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday that the telecommunications giant has also agreed to spend $28 million over the next five years to properly dispose of the waste, which includes batteries, electronic equipment and various gels and liquids. Harris said the investigation began in 2011 when inspectors with the Alameda County District Attorney's office and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control examined trash bins outside about 235 AT&T warehouse and other facilities.
An AT&T spokesman said the company cooperated with the investigation.
Five other telecommunications' companies have disclosed in financial filings with regulators that they are the targets of similar investigations.
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