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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 December 19, 2014 18:50 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The FBI says it has enough evidence to conclude that North Korea was behind the hack attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment.
An FBI statement cites, among other factors, technical similarities between the Sony break-in and past "malicious cyber activity" linked directly to North Korea.
The Sony attack, reported late November, involved the use of destructive malware that caused the studio to take its entire computer network offline and left thousands of computers inoperable.
The breach resulted in the disclosure of tens of thousands of leaked emails and other materials. It later escalated to terrorist threats that promoted Sony to cancel the Christmas release of the movie "The Interview," a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The FBI statement says North Korea's actions "were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves."
SONY HACK-MESSAGE FROM HACKERS
NEW YORK (AP) -- Hackers have sent a new email to Sony Pictures Entertainment, praising the studio as "very wise" to cancel the release of "The Interview" and saying Sony's data is safe "as long as you make no more trouble."
The email was confirmed Friday by a person close to the studio who requested anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
The message warned to "never" release the film "in any form," including on DVD. The email was sent to several employees of the Culver City, California company.
The Obama administration on Friday formally accused the North Korean government of being responsible for the devastating hacking attack.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- T-Mobile US will pay up to $90 million, mostly in refunds, for billing customers for cellphone text services they didn't order, under a settlement with federal regulators.
The Federal Trade Commission announced the agreement Friday with T-Mobile over billing for unauthorized charges, a practice known as "cramming." T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. cellphone company, is paying refunds to affected customers plus $18 million in fines to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and $4.5 million in fines to the Federal Communications Commission.
The FTC sued T-Mobile in July, accusing it of billing customers for subscriptions to text services like $9.99-per-month horoscopes or celebrity gossip updates that they didn't want or authorize.
T-Mobile collected 35 percent to 40 percent of the charges, the FTC alleges.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker is criticizing a decision to delay full implementation of a rule that bears his name and aims to curb banks' risky investments.
The Fed said Thursday that it would delay until July 2017 the deadline by which U.S. banks will have to sell off potentially volatile holdings in private equity, venture capital and hedge funds.
In a statement, Volcker calls it "striking that the world's leading investment bankers, noted for their cleverness and agility in advising clients" need to take so long to reorganize their own activities.
Volcker says the banks' real aim may be to delay implementation of the law until they can get it changed. Congress passed the Volcker Rule in an overhaul of financial regulations after the 2008 financial crisis.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates fell in 41 U.S. states in November and were unchanged in six more, reflecting healthy job gains across the country.
The Labor Department says unemployment rates rose in only three states: Connecticut, Louisiana, and Washington state.
Solid economic growth since the spring has encouraged more employers to step up hiring. The U.S. has added nearly 2.7 million jobs this year, the most since 1999. That has lowered unemployment rates in most of the country.
North Dakota's 2.7 percent unemployment rate was lowest in the nation. Mississippi's 7.3 percent rate was the highest.
The biggest job gains occurred in California, which added 90,100 jobs in November, followed by Florida, which gained 41,900. Texas added the third-most jobs, with 34,800.
CHICAGO (AP) -- The average price for a gallon of gas has fallen below the $2.50 mark for the first time in about five years. Oil analyst Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com says the price of gas has dropped 41 cents over the last month with the average now at $2.46 a gallon.
According to GasBuddy.com, Texas features the lowest gas price with a station in Keller selling fuel for $1.69.
DeHaan says while the price of gas should continue to fall as the year comes to a close, the rate will not be as dramatic since gas prices have just about matched the steep decline in oil prices.
DETROIT (AP) -- Chrysler is recalling nearly 257,000 older Ram pickup trucks because the rear axle can seize or the drive shaft can fall off.
The recall covers Ram 1500 pickups from the 2005 model year.
Chrysler says in documents posted Friday by U.S. safety regulators that the rear-axle pinion nut can come loose. That can cause problems that make the trucks spin out of control.
The recall comes after an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that began in June.
The agency found 15 complaints, including seven drivers who reported that the wheels locked at speeds over 50 miles per hour. At the time, no crashes or injuries were reported.
Dealers will install a fix at no cost to owners. The recall will begin in February.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Health officials say prepackaged caramel apples are linked to five deaths and more than two dozen illnesses in 10 states.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says investigators are trying to determine the specific brands that were involved. But consumers are being warned not to eat prepackaged caramel apples until more is known.
The CDC says it knows of 28 cases in which people were sickened by a form of bacterial food poisoning called listeria, with 26 hospitalized. They got sick between Oct. 17 and Nov. 27. CDC said it's possible other illnesses have occurred since then.
Two of the deaths were in Minnesota, according to state health officials. The CDC said the illnesses also occurred in Arizona, California, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of cancer treatment company Juno Therapeutics Inc. are surging 60 percent in their stock market debut.
Juno genetically engineers a patient's own white blood cells to find and kill cancer cells in the body. It says its clinical trials have shown evidence of tumors shrinking.
The Seattle-based company raised $264.5 million after selling more than 11 million shares at $24 per share. It plans to use the cash raised to continue trials and studies. The stock is listed on the Nasdaq stock market under ticker symbol "JUNO."
NEW YORK (AP) -- Blackberry reported an adjusted profit for its fiscal third quarter, surprising Wall Street.
The Canadian company's stock climbed almost 3 percent in Friday premarket trading.
For the period ended Nov. 29, the company lost $148 million, or 28 cents per share. That compares with a loss of $4.4 billion, or $8.37 per share, a year earlier.
Stripping out some charges, earnings were a penny per share.
Analysts polled by Zacks Investment Research predicted a loss of 6 cents per share.
Revenue declined to $793 million from $1.19 billion. Analysts were looking for $927.8 million, according to Zacks.
Blackberry Ltd. said that it continues to target sustainable adjusted profitability some time in fiscal 2016.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Another major publisher has reached a multiyear deal with Amazon.com.
Amazon and Macmillan CEO John Sargent confirmed this week that they had agreed to terms for both print and electronic books. The deal will allow Macmillan to set prices for e-books, an arrangement known as the "agency model," and appears similar to agreements Amazon reached in the past two months with Hachette Book Group and Simon & Schuster. Authors at Macmillan range from Jonathan Franzen and Hilary Mantel to Oprah Winfrey and Bill O'Reilly.
Both Macmillan and Hachette have had public feuds with Amazon over terms for e-books. In 2010, Amazon briefly removed "Buy' buttons for all Macmillan releases. For months in 2014, the retailer restricted availability and reduced discounts for numerous Hachette books.
BANGKOK (AP) -- Thai Union Frozen Products is acquiring Bumble Bee Seafoods, a major seller of canned tuna in the United States, for $1.5 billion.
The Thai company says Friday that the purchase of Bumble Bee, which is owned by private equity firm Lion Capital, should be completed by the second half of 2015,
Its statement said Thai Union has annual sales exceeding 100 billion baht ($3 billion), and San Diego-based Bumble Bee Seafoods generates annual sales of approximately $1 billion.
The Thai company already owns Chicken of the Sea, another major U.S. provider of packaged seafood.
MIAMI (AP) -- The Cuban cigar is set to make its first legal appearance U.S. in years, with relaxed guidelines allowing travelers to return with a few in their suitcases. But the cigars won't roll into stores just yet, and owners say they aren't worried about business.
Some tobacco shops owners in Miami's Little Havana say most customers can't afford to travel to Cuba for cigars and won't do so regularly.
Licensed American travelers can return home with $100 in alcohol and tobacco products. Experts say that's three to 20 cigars.
Cigars brought back to the U.S. must be for personal use, not resale. If the U.S. embargo with Cuba is eventually lifted, many tobacconists say they'd welcome the change. They could add Cuban tobacco to their blends, and many believe they interest in cigars would increase.
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