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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 23, 2014 17:21 GMT
The price of crude oil rose $1.27 to $81.80 a barrel in New York.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Earnings gains from General Motors, 3M and other big companies are driving stocks sharply higher in early trading.
GM rose 2 percent after reporting that its third-quarter profit doubled thanks to big earnings from SUV and truck sales.
Caterpillar, 3M and Southwest Airlines also gained after reporting earnings that pleased investors. AT&T lost 2 percent after its results fell short of analysts' forecasts.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 19 points, or 1 percent, to 1,946 as of 9:35 a.m. Eastern time Thursday.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 200 points, or 1.2 percent, to 16,659. The Nasdaq composite rose 41 points, or 1 percent, to 4,424.
Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.26 percent.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week after falling to a 14-year low the previous week. Despite the increase, weekly applications remain at historically low levels that suggest hiring is gaining steam.
The Labor Department says applications rose 17,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 283,000. That is the sixth straight week below 300,000. Applications have fallen 19 percent in the past year.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined 3,000 to 281,000, the lowest in 14 years. As a percentage of the working population, applications are near their lowest levels since the early 1970s.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Their unusually low level suggests that employers are confident enough to hold onto workers and may step up hiring.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A gauge designed to predict the economy's future health posted a solid increase in September after no gain in the previous month.
The Conference Board says its index of leading indicators rose 0.8 percent last month following a flat reading in August which originally had been reported as a small 0.2 percent gain.
Economists expect that continuing strong gains in employment should boost incomes and help support solid economic growth in the United States in coming quarters despite a weaker outlook overseas.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average U.S. mortgage rates continued to slide this week, raising prospects of a wave of consumers refinancing their loans. The 30-year mortgage fell further below 4 percent.
Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year loan declined to 3.92 percent from 3.97 percent last week. The average rate is at its lowest level since June 2013. It was 4.53 percent in January. The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, fell to 3.08 percent from 3.18 percent.
It was the fifth straight week of declines for mortgage rates.
Across the country last week, homeowners and would-be homeowners eager for a bargain rate fired off inquiries to lenders.
PEORIA, Ill. (AP) -- Caterpillar's belt tightening paid off in the third quarter as the manufacturer easily beat Wall Street expectations and raised its outlook for the year.
The company has wrestled with a slowing global economy and took a restructuring charge of 9 cents per share during the quarter tied to cost cuts. However, CEO and Chairman Doug Oberhelman said that he is hopeful that economic growth will pick up next year.
Caterpillar, based in Peoria, Illinois, reported third-quarter net income of $1.02 billion, or $1.63 per share, in the three months ending Sept. 30, compared with $951 million, or $1.45 per share, in the same quarter a year ago.
Adjusted to remove restructuring costs, earnings came to $1.72 per share, blowing past Wall Street expectations of $1.33 per share.
Revenue rose slightly to $13.55 billion, also topping the $13.37 billion analysts expected, according to Zacks Investment Research.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Diversified manufacturer 3M's third-quarter net income rose 6 percent on higher revenue across all divisions.
The maker of Post-it notes, industrial coatings and ceramics also narrowed its guidance range.
Net income for the three months ending Sept. 30 after paying preferred dividends totaled $1.3 billion, or $2.02 per share, up from $1.23 billion, or $1.81 per share, last year. Analysts expected $1.96 per share, according to FactSet.
Revenue rose 3 percent to $8.14 billion from $7.92 billion. Analysts expected $8.23 billion. The stronger dollar hurt revenue by about 1 percentage point, the company said.
The St. Paul, Minnesota-based company narrowed its guidance to net income of $7.40 to $7.50 for the year, compared with prior expectations of $7.30 to $7.55. Analysts expected $7.46 per share.
At its industrial unit, which makes auto and aircraft parts, revenue rose 3 percent to $2.8 billion. Revenue from its electronics and energy unit rose nearly 4 percent to $1.5 billion. Safety and graphics revenue rose 1 percent to $1.4 billion and revenue from health care products rose about 5 percent to $1.4 billion. Revenue from consumer products like Scotch tape and Post-its rose 2 percent to $1.2 billion.
DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors says its third-quarter profit nearly doubled as strong earnings in North America and China outweighed struggles in Europe and South America.
The automaker posted a net profit of $1.38 billion, or 81 cents per share, from July through September. A year ago, GM made $698 million, or 45 cents per share.
It was the first quarter this year without significant charges for recalls. GM has issued 75 recalls in 2014 covering more than 30 million vehicles, costing the company more than $2.8 billion.
Without $331 million in one-time items, GM would have made 97 cents per share, exceeding Wall Street's expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet expected 95 cents.
Revenue grew 2 percent to $39.25 billion. That also beat expectations of $38.79 billion.
DALLAS (AP) -- More passengers and lower fuel prices are pushing Southwest Airlines to record profits, and the airline expects an even bigger break at the gas pump this winter.
CEO Gary Kelly says the trend toward higher revenue has continued into October, and bookings for November and December look good.
Southwest Airlines Co. said Thursday that net income rose 27 percent to $329 million , or 48 cents per share, in the July-to-September quarter.
Excluding one-time items such as the falling value of some fuel-hedging contracts, the profit would have been 55 cents per share. On that basis, analysts expected 53 cents per share, according to FactSet.
Revenue rose 5.6 percent to $4.80 billion, a tick better than analysts' forecast of $4.79 billion.
The average one-way fare inched higher -- to $160.74, an increase of $1.35 from last summer. Passengers flew 5.6 percent more miles, and planes carried record loads -- the average flight was 84.4 percent full, an increase from 80.8 percent the year before.
Southwest spent $2.94 per gallon on fuel in the third quarter, down from $3.06 a year earlier. And the discount will grow -- the airline predicted that it will pay between $2.70 and $2.75 per gallon in the fourth quarter.
Fuel spending dropped 4.4 percent in the third quarter, but labor costs rose 7.2 percent.
Tablets, cars drive AT&T wireless gains--not phones
NEW YORK (AP) -- AT&T says it gained 2 million wireless subscribers in the latest quarter, but most were from non-phone services such as tablets and Internet-connected cars. The company is facing pricing pressure from smaller rivals T-Mobile and Sprint in a competitive environment in which most Americans already have a cellphone.
The net increases in the July-September quarter included nearly 1.3 million connected devices, such as home-security systems. Cars made up more than 500,000 of that total. On top of those figures, Dallas-based AT&T added 342,000 tablet customers.
Phones are still a lucrative business for wireless carriers, but the rise of tablets and other devices give wireless carriers additional revenue sources.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Comcast Corp.'s third-quarter net income jumped 50 percent in the third quarter, helped by a hefty tax settlement and more high-speed Internet customers.
The nation's largest cable provider says its net income rose to $2.59 billion, or 99 cents per share. That compares with net income of $1.73 billion, or 65 cents per share, last year. Excluding one-time tax settlement, net income totaled 73 cents per share, beating analyst expectations of 71 cents per share.
Revenue rose 4 percent to $16.79 billion from $16.15 billion last year. Analysts expected $16.8 billion.
Cable hookup revenue rose 5 percent to $11.04 billion, and NBCUniversal revenue rose 1 percent to $5.92 billion.
Comcast is in the midst of a $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable in a deal under regulatory review.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Coca-Cola is naming a new chief marketing officer as the world's biggest soda maker works to boost flat soda sales.
The Atlanta-based company says Marcos De Quinto, a company veteran, will replace Joe Tripodi starting Jan. 1.
The maker of Powerade, Fanta and Diet Coke this week outlined plans to significantly slash costs after reporting disappointing sales for its third quarter.
De Quinto currently heads Coca-Cola's Iberia division and is a vice president of the Europe group. He has also served in marketing roles in countries including Spain and Germany.
Tripodi, who has headed Coca-Cola's marketing for the past seven years, oversaw the launch of Coke's "Open Happiness" campaign.
AIR BAG RECALL
DETROIT (AP) -- Two U.S. senators are calling on U.S. auto safety regulators to immediately issue a nationwide recall for cars with faulty air bags made by Takata Corp.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward Markey of Massachusetts made the call in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who oversees the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The letter delivered Thursday also asks Foxx to encourage automakers to provide free loaner cars if parts aren't available.
Air bag inflators made by Takata can rupture, causing metal fragments to fly out in a crash. Safety advocates say the problem has caused four deaths. So far automakers have recalled about 12 million vehicles worldwide due to the problem.
But in the U.S. many automakers have limited the recall to high-humidity areas in southern states.
DALLAS (AP) -- The hospital where a man diagnosed with Ebola died and two nurses were infected with the virus says its revenue and patient roles have plummeted.
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas said in financial statements Wednesday that its revenue fell 25 percent in the first 20 days of October, shortly after Thomas Eric Duncan was admitted with Ebola.
The hospital says emergency room visits have fallen more than 50 percent, and its daily patient census fell 20 percent.
Presbyterian Hospital has been criticized for its initial care of Duncan, who was released after coming to the emergency room Sept. 25 with a fever and other Ebola symptoms. He returned three days later by ambulance and was diagnosed with the disease.
Its two infected nurses were transferred to other hospitals for treatment.
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