Monthly Archives: March 2008

Men are from Video Games, Women are from Social Networks

gender gap on social media is growing

It’s no
shock either that men and women act very different online. The web is an extremely social medium, with
Web 2.0 being all about social. Men traditionally
are early adopters, especially when it comes to tech, but when it comes to
social media, women are at the forefront.

At Rapleaf we conducted a study of 13.2 million people and how they are using social
media. While the trends among the sexes indicate
they are both massively using social media, women are far outpacing men – here
is our hypothesis as to why:

Just the facts, madam 

For those
under 30, women and men are just as likely to be members of social
networks. Sites like Facebook, MySpace,
and Flixster are extraordinarily popular. But we found that young women are much more active on these sites then
young men. And for people above 30, men
– especially married men – aren’t even joining social networks.. With the notable exception of LinkedIn usage and
VCs in the Bay Area friending everyone on Facebook, married men are not hanging
out on social networks. Married women,
however, are joining social networks in droves. In fact, women between the ages 35-50 are the fastest growing segment on
social networks, especially on MySpace.

Looking further
into this trend, we believe that young men spend as much time (and sometimes
more) in front of a computer than young women. And they have just as much free time, if not more. But we believe the
competition for their computer time comes from spending hours playing video
games such as World of Warcraft and many first-person action games.

Many men
who play casual games tend to like games like poker with betting involved. Since most social networks ban gambling, men
find sites (most of them offshore) that allow them to wager when they play. Women on the other hand are large consumers
of casual games and most social networks, especially those that are dominated
by third party applications, are essentially big casual game networks.  Young women also spend much more time
decorating their social network profile pages, making slide shows, and more. Popular sites such as
exacerbate this effect by offering and catering MySpace layouts to young women.

So while
young men and women are signing up for social networks at a similar rate, young
women are “throwing more sheep” at people.

Now young
men understand that they can’t spend ALL their time playing video games (though
some do) as they still need to interact with the opposite sex. Sex is one of the strongest drivers of
online usage and many men see social networks as a gateway to potentially
filling that desire. Men, in general, tend
to look at things more transactionally than women. Once men get married, they see increasingly
less value in being on a social network. Which, of course, is why married men dominate LinkedIn – the most
transactional social network (with the exception of AdultFriendFinder). LinkedIn is all about getting information and
introductions now.

Women, on
the other, hand are much more relationship driven and less transactional than
men. They spend more time on social
networks building relationships, communicating with friends, making new
friends, and more. Married women put up
pictures of their immediate family on social networks and use their social
network profile as a family home page to share with friends and relatives.

With all
this happening, we’re witnessing a burgeoning gender gap.

Just take
a look at RockYou and Slide, two dominant photo widget sites,  These sites are very clearly targeting young
women, down to the fact that they have traditional feminine colors (i.e. purple
and pink), glitter text everywhere, and are almost exclusively decorated with pictures
of women. They don’t even give men lip
service on their site. Both companies do
have a few niche Facebook applications that target men, but the fact these
applications are hidden and often marketed under different brands proves that
that women rule this space.

If you
are creating a new Web 2.0 site and you want to go viral, you target
women. Young women drive virality and so
all the new innovation is targeted towards them. That means that the gender gap on social
networks (and increasingly in all of social media) is only going to widen. More and more innovation will be targeted
towards women and they will continue to get more engaged. And while we expect men’s adoption to social
media to continue to increase, it will likely be slower than the rate of adoption
by women.

There may
actually be some truth in the old adage that “men are from Mars” and “women are
from Venus”, even in the online domain.


More: Data
from the Rapleaf study


we don’t know jack about people

Yup … we just don’t know anything about human behavior … and don’t believe otherwise.

Some might argue for nature (“it is the genes … baby”) and some might argue for nurture (the environment). I don’t think we got any clue. None.

Identical twins who are reared in the same home only have a correlation of about 0.5 on personality tests. Now 0.5 is really high – but these are people with the exact same genes and the same upbringing. You’d think they would have even a higher correlation.

This information is care of Judith Rich Harris in her book “No Two Alike” (which I highly recommend). She goes on to state: “the identical twin of someone who has experienced a major depression has only a 40 percent chance of becoming seriously depressed. The identical twin of someone with schizophrenia has only a 48 percent chance of developing the disorder.”

So I stand here knowing that just don’t know jack about people…

read House of Rothschild by Niall Ferguson

Finally completed House of Rothschild – Money’s Prophets (1798 – 1848) by Niall Ferguson.   This is another of a long line of great books by Ferguson (I’ll pretty much read anything he writes — I find all his books pushing me to think in new ways).   

Like most Ferguson books, House of Rothschild is not a book that can be read quickly.  and it is big and fat … so it is hard to take with you on a trip (this is the book that makes me want to have a kindle).   But i highly recommend it as it details the raise of the Rothschilds — the most important banking house in the 1800s.

reservoir dogs in DC

was in DC last Thursday briefing some people on social media.

Here’s a photo of Chamath Palihapitiya (VP at Facebook), Marc Andreessen (Chairman of Ning), Michael Wolf (fmr COO of MTV Networks), and myself doing our best reservoir dogs impersonation in front of the White House.    Photo was taken by Chris Alden (CEO of SixApart which owns Typepad where this blog is hosted).

Recessions promote breakthrough innovations

Economic downturns are good for innovators and bad for pretty much everyone else

The best time for new technology trends to take off is during economic downturns.

There has been a lot of talk about the current and coming future economic situation. The housing price collapse, liquidity crisis, inflation woes, and many other factors have led a lot of people much smarter than me to think a recession is coming.

My response: bring it on!

When the economy is booming, little pressure is put on expenses. In good economic times, large organizations often penalized innovators. Instead of looking for radical changes, companies are ok with spending more money on the same software, the same hardware, and the same advertising mix.

But that changes quickly in hard times. Economic downturns force companies to reevaluate how they spend money. Companies need to cut expenditures dramatically yet are expected to have the same level of service as when times were good. This forces firms to look for alternatives to what they are doing.

The last downturn in 2001-2003 was instructive. 2001 was the breakout year for Google. Companies had to look for a more effective way to advertise and they found that buying leads on search engines was measurable, easy, and highly profitable (especially back then when the cost per click was lower).

Linux also took off in 2001. Companies couldn’t afford to buy powerful Sun servers anymore yet they couldn’t afford not to do anything. So companies experimented with Linux on used Intel boxes and found that it performed quite well. And then the unexpected happened … other companies, like IBM, observed this trend and started investing in Linux to promote their own solutions.

MySQL was the same story. The free database solution was more appealing then MS SQL Server for the low-end market and Oracle for the mid-range market.

We’ll see something similar happen in the next downturn … innovations that are having trouble getting wide adoption today will take off.

This is why I’m still bullish on Internet advertising. Over the last few years, while Internet advertising has exploded, it has not even come close with keeping pace with its percentage share of media usage. If dollars were allocated as a percentage of time each form of media takes, web advertising would be much bigger than it is today. In 2006, annual U.S. online ad revenues were about $17 billion (according to IAB) which was compared to about $25 billion for publications (magazines and newspapers) and $91 billion for television. This disparity exists because it is really hard to change inertia. Media buyers like to buy TV (and there are a lot of incentives for them to continue to buy TV). And while Internet ad revenue climbed 25% to $21.1 billion for 2007 (according to IAB), the Internet still represents less than 10% of ad spending yet is far more than 10% market share of our media consumption.

In the event of an economic downturn, there will be a lot of pressure on large companies to find more cost effective (or at least more measurable) ways to advertise. So while overall ad dollars might decrease, we should expect advertising in traditional media (like magazines and TV) to drop much faster than ads in new media – and that new ratio then will become the norm when the economy rebounds.

At Rapleaf, we’re also betting that a downturn will force companies to look to their current customers for new revenue (rather than focusing on building their revenues just by getting new customers). Acquiring new customers is expensive. Get new dollars from existing customers (whether through selling them additional services or just making them happier so they stay customers longer) is much more capital efficient. Companies will switch their expenditure ratio to focus on learning more about their current customers.

Economic downturns help innovators, but they don’t necessarily help “technology” companies. The last downturn negative effected companies like Sun, Microsoft, and Cisco. While these companies do innovate, they benefit much more from the status quo. Essentially, most large “technology” companies benefit when things DON’T change. By contrast, real innovation (either from start-ups or some rare large companies like Apple) benefits from change.