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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 April 23, 2014 07:29 GMT
TOKYO (AP) -- Shares were mixed in Asia today as weak data from China sapped upward momentum from an overnight rally on a flurry of deals in the pharmaceutical sector.
A preliminary survey of Chinese manufacturers by HSBC showed slight improvements in prices and demand, but contractions in new export orders and employment in April. The results were expected, but helped pull Hong Kong's Hang Seng index down 0.6 percent to 22,592.41. Shares in mainland China also fell.
Sentiment was also buoyed by a solid start for Seibu Holdings Inc. whose shares rose 5 percent in the morning after an initial public offering in its relisting on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
The dollar was relatively flat against the euro and the yen. Benchmark crude oil fell to near $101.50 a barrel.
THE DAY AHEAD
WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's a busy day for earnings reports, but there's also a fresh gauge of the housing market on the schedule.
The Commerce Department releases figures on sales of new homes last month. Yesterday, the National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes slipped 0.2 percent, citing a tight supply of available homes and rising prices.
Also today, HSBC releases its monthly flash purchasing managers index for April.
As for earnings, Procter & Gamble, Boeing, Delta Air Lines and Reynolds American release their quarterly financial results before the market opens.
Michelin reports first quarter sales and Ericsson presents its quarterly results.
After the market closes, Apple, Facebook and Safeway release their results.
GENERAL MOTORS-IMPALA INVESTIGATION
DETROIT (AP) -- Federal regulators are investigating the 2014 Chevy Impala after a driver reported that the emergency braking system activated multiple times without warning.
The driver says that in one instance, the Impala was traveling at 40 miles-per-hour with no one in front of it when the brakes activated. The car was rear-ended. No injuries were reported.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened the investigation to determine whether the alleged defect is widespread. More than 60,000 Impalas of the 2014 model year are on U.S. roads.
The investigation is unrelated to GM's recent recall of 2.6 million older model Chevrolets and other cars for defective ignition switches.
TOKYO (AP) -- Toyota kept its position at the top in global vehicle sales for the first quarter of this year, outpacing rivals General Motors and Volkswagen.
Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday that it sold 2.583 million vehicles in the January-March period, ahead of Detroit-based GM at 2.42 million and Volkswagen of Germany at 2.4 million.
The Japanese automaker's first quarter sales rose by more than 6 percent from the same period the previous year. GM's sales grew 2 percent, while Volkswagen's added nearly 6 percent.
Toyota finished first last year with a record 9.98 million vehicles in sales, remaining the top-selling automaker for a second year in a row. General Motors Co. finished second and VW third.
Toyota is targeting sales of more than 10 million vehicles this year.
COAL ASH SPILL-NORTH CAROLINA
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Duke Energy says that removing all of the company's coal ash away from North Carolina's rivers and lakes would take decades and cost up to $10 billion, with the state's electricity customers likely footing nearly all the bill.
Duke's North Carolina president Paul Newton is telling state lawmakers that the company needs flexibility to consider more cost-efficient options that include leaving much of its 100 million tons of toxic ash in place after being covered with giant tarps and soil.
State officials say all 33 of Duke's unlined dumps are contaminating groundwater.
Environmental groups are calling for new legislation requiring Duke to move its coal ash to lined landfills away from waterways following the massive Feb. 2 spill in Eden that coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge.
NORTH DAKOTA-FLARING MEETING
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- North Dakota oil companies don't like a proposal that would have the industry cut back on oil production to control the amount of natural gas that's being wasted.
Companies spoke out against the proposal at a hearing yesterday in Bismarck. Instead, the industry wants regulators to consider self-imposed steps to curb natural gas flaring.
North Dakota drillers currently burn off, or flare, a record 36 percent of the valuable gas because development of gas pipelines and processing facilities haven't kept pace with oil drilling.
Oil industry officials have pledged to capture 85 percent of the gas by 2016, and 90 percent within six years as infrastructure catches up with oil development.
Watford City physician Lyle Best says slowing oil development would improve many problems in the state, including flaring.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Australia has increased its order for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters by 58 to 72 to be fully operational by 2023 in a declaration of confidence in the troubled stealth war plane.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday he expects the additional 58 U.S. jets, developed by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. will cost 12.4 billion Australian dollars ($11.5 billion).
The F-35 is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program and has been troubled by schedule delays and cost overruns.
Abbott says he is confident that the cost of about AU$90 million per jet will continue to fall with time.
Australia is a funding partner in developing the F-35 and ordered its first 14 jets in 2009.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Twenty-one European cities from Cardiff, Wales, to Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, are finalists in a lucrative innovation contest devised by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the finalists Wednesday. They will compete for a grand prize of 5 million euros, or nearly $7 million, and four 1 million euro awards. Winners will be announced in the fall.
The cities were asked for projects that could solve major social or economic problems or make government more effective.
A few examples: Amsterdam wants to create an online game to engage unemployed young people in finding jobs across Europe. Madrid wants to make energy out of the heat thrown off by underground infrastructure.
Kirklees, in England, envisions citizens pooling resources ranging from cars to unused space to expertise.
MICROSOFT-BING IN CLASSROOMS
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Microsoft is expanding a program that gives schools the ability to prevent ads from appearing in search results when they use its Bing search engine. The program, launched in a pilot program earlier this year, is now available to all U.S. schools, public or private, from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
The program is meant to create a safer online environment for children, but also promote use of Bing, which trails market leader Google Inc.
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. is also giving away a first-generation Surface tablet computer to schools where community members sign up to use the ad-supported version of Bing outside of the school. Sixty parents and friends who do 30 Bing searches a day could earn their school a Surface in a little over a month.
CALIFORNIA BUS CRASH
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The mother of a teenager who was among 10 people killed in a fiery Northern California bus crash is suing the bus company and FedEx.
Attorney A. King Aminpour says the negligence suit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles asks fpr $100 million.
Seventeen-year-old Jennifer Bonilla, of Los Angeles, was on a bus taking students to tour a university April 10 when it was struck by a FedEx truck on a freeway in Orland.
Five teens and five adults died, including both drivers.
Some witnesses say the FedEx truck was on fire before the crash. The lawsuit alleges FedEx trucks have a history of catching fire.
Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx Corp. declined to discuss the litigation but says it's cooperating with investigators.
A call seeking comment from the bus owner, Silverado Stages, wasn't immediately returned.
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