Blogs > 37th Frame

Photography, notes, commentary and much more from former Reporter Online Editor Chris Stanley.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How the mighty have floundered

So the big news last week was how Netflix angered their subscribers by splitting the service - and charging twice as much in the process. Now the company is planning to rename the DVD-by-mail service Qwikster, which sounds like a chocolate drink.

The big news this week is yet more changes to Facebook. Now when users open their page, they are presented with more 'news' windows which supposedly highlight topics that the crack team at Facebook thinks are important to YOU.
Or more likely, important to their advertisers.

I was an early fan of Netflix, and we have thoroughly enjoyed the streaming service, despite the fact that it is mostly loaded with 'B' and 'C' level movies. In fact most of the few really good movies are scheduled to disappear early next year after contract talks with Starz broke down recently.

The problem, of course, is that that Netflix simply could not provide all that content for the price they were charging ($8 - $13 a month in my case). That was obvious a long time ago. The price increase was not the surprise, but the way they spun it was a kick in the Wii to their subscribers was. Twice the price? Well, out goes the DVD delivery. Or maybe drop the streaming service, since new alternatives are emerging and I really don't want to pay much for movies that wouldn't even make the marquis at the $2 discount movie theater.
Facebook has been chipping away at customer loyalty for several years - while they provide a free service that hundreds of millions use every day, they don't seem to understand why those users like the service (and what made Facebook kick MySpace into i-blivion).

I don't want to know what my 'friends' are doing at all hours of the day and night. That's what Twitter and Foursquare are for. I don't want pre-selected 'news that is important to me' to eclipse all the supposedly unimportant posts. I don't use FB chat very much, but those who do are complaining that the new format is confusing their friend lists and trying to steer their social interactions.

What do I want from FB? Control. I want to choose what posts I see. I want to control my privacy settings (and not have to re-visit them constantly). I want to control how and when I use the service - Facebook may want to become the new Twitter, Foursquare and ChatRoulette all wrapped up in one, but that is not what I signed up for.

So the question is, when will these companies get it? Treat you customers with respect and fairness. Listen to them. Talk with them, not at them. Stop trying to own the world. Test innovations thoroughly before launching them. Explain pricing and charge fairly.

Loyalty doesn't mean much these days, but if an online entity leaves their users feeling left out, there are plenty of others that will quickly fill in the gap.


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