Ping’s scheme is to sell more tunes

Sep 2, 2010
Tech

Do we really need another social network? That depends on how you view the purpose of social networks. The biggest, Facebook, is great for monitoring, from a safe distance, what your old high school buddies are doing. But don’t put Apple’s new Ping service into the same category. Ping is a new social network for iTunes […]

Do we really need another social network? That depends on how you view the purpose of social networks. The biggest, Facebook, is great for monitoring, from a safe distance, what your old high school buddies are doing. But don’t put Apple’s new Ping service into the same category.

Ping is a new social network for iTunes users, introduced Wednesday by Steve Jobs during his annual September dog-and-pony show to introduce new iPods. In particular, it should be useful for music fans who want to share and find tunes that people with similar tastes will enjoy, or be willing to take a chance on. It’s not an original idea, either, as Last.fm has been offering a similar network of ideas from your musically inclined friends. (Last.fm is also a great streaming radio service, too, that can be arranged based on your tastes, similar to Pandora Radio.)

Ping is not intended to work like Facebook, the all-you-can-eat social network. Ping is specific to iTunes and will add another layer of revenue opportunity for Apple. Apple is already very good at making recommendations on what you should buy, and Ping is just the modern approach. Apple already offers “just for you” recommendations, for example.

I think Ping will be a success because most of us will take a look and will probably increase sales. But I think those will be marginal increases across an increasingly comprehensive program from iTunes for music recommendations.

GigaOm’s Om Malik thinks Ping represents the future of social commerce. People will use the service in addition to having conversations about music and movies, something we do all the time. “With 12 million songs and 250,000 apps, the best way for Apple to enhance the iTunes store – aka its shopping experience — is through the use of social. … Apple has done a great job of that, but it’s also gone one step further, not only by adding a social networking layer to iTunes, but by meshing it with its commerce engine, the iTunes Store.”

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At ReadWriteWeb, Richard MacManus takes a quick spin through Ping (available now as part of the iTunes 10 upgrade) and wisely asks this question: “We do however wonder at the overly commercial focus of Ping. Is this really about social networking, or mostly for Apple and artists to sell more music?” Overall, he thought the service would be good if you had music fans who shared the same tastes, but lousy if your friends have different tastes.

I’m sure I’ll try Ping at some point. I like the notion of social networks for specific tastes or interests, so I think Apple is on the right track. Yet as MacManus points out, if Ping feels too much like a commerce engine, it could turn off many potential users.

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Eric Benderoff

Eric Benderoff is the principal of BendableMedia.com, an editorial services firm, and a founding member of the Appolicious content strategy team. His personal technology column for the Chicago Tribune has appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide. He is a regular guest on Chicago's WGN Radio and is a frequent commentator about consumer technology on national TV news programs.

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