Bebo stands out as a great example of how social sites are differentiating themselves. It's moving from being purely about social networking to being a social-media platform, as The Guardian puts it. For one thing, the site (based in San Francisco but huge in the UK, with 10.7 million "regular users" there), it's specializing in social TV – a kind of hybrid of reality TV and social networking. "A new reality series from Big Brother producer Endemol follows the fortunes of six young people as they travel the world," The Guardian reports. "But you won't find it on BBC 3 or Channel 4. The Gap Year is online social network Bebo's third original content commission in six months; part of a bold strategy raising eyebrows among programme-makers and broadcasters." This is different from other social sites, which generally host user-generated ("amateur") video, TV supplied by traditional programmers, or advertiser-produced video. What Bebo offers is attractive to both young users, who like to be involved in the programming – to customize it, in a way – and to advertisers, who can get closer to "viewers" (or, in effect, "co-producers") than ever before. The Financial Times quotes Bebo international president Joanna Shields as saying that other social sites are more like a communications device, while Bebo is more like a media player. The service is also partnering with traditional media companies, the FT says. "Bebo’s Open Media initiative will allow companies such as the BBC and CBS to make their video content available on Bebo’s site, using their own media players and selling their own advertising around the content if they wish." Here's coverage from a CNET reporter's blog too.
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