Cool is simply...cool. It's "it". You either have "it" or you don't. Being deemed cool is the ultimate compliment because it is desired. Wanted. Emulated. Copied.
This digital media age makes keeping up with cool really hard. Cool is not just a mass media media annointment. What makes something cool to one person or group -- by definition -- has to be deemed "uncool" by another person or group. When "cool" became a life pursuit in America with the baby boomers after WWII, many icons became commonly accepted as cool. Presley. Dean in his red leather jacket. Beatniks. Surfers. And on. Teens thought them cool; grownups didn't.
Cool as a word hasn't ever gone out of style. Lots of fad words have tried and failed to last (see graphic from Fast Company above). Being cool is powerful (although the movie "Be Cool" wasn't).
The thinking is same today. Let's look at MySpace. Cool for 40 million members, creating 80 million webpages...and still awesomely growing. Uncool for people actually trying to search for subjects or members, due to their poor search engine tool. Cool for teens and twentysomethings trying to hook up or for indie bands and even major motion pictures to connect with fans. Uncool for people concerned with predators or "older" web users wanting social connections but disturbed by the "noise" and raw confusion. Cool for leading edge ad campaigns but uncool for advertisers concerned their campaign will get lost in the murk. The fact that MySpace was bought a year ago for $580 million after only 18 months of existence: cool. Many said, however, it was uncool that megamedia giant News Corp bought it, that it would have be "cooler" if Viacom's MTV Network bought it instead.
So what has News Corp done with MySpace since they bought it? Inserted live "hotline" for users to alert editors of questionable content or possible predator activity. Tested micro advertising webpage campaigns offering free episodes of News Corp/Fox content (like "24"). Spent $20 million more on server infrastructure and distribution pipe. They even kept the creators of MySpace for its executive leadership instead of the typical M&A move of tossing the acquired's management. And decided not (yet) to insert banner or paid link advertising. The basically let their big purchase pretty much as it was before, with a few improvements for efficiency.
What was the result, a year later? Doubled its user base and became (in May) the most popular website in the world (according to web traffic measurement by Hitwise). Meanwhile, News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch is coverboy for this month's The Wired 40.
So what's next for MySpace?
For more on cool, here's some links:
Fast Company article here (subscriber log-on required)
Malcom Gladwell archival article on "Cool Hunting" here
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Friday, July 14, 2006,