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Posted by Augie Ray on September 3, 2010
I read Henry Blodget's Business Insider article, "Here's Twitter's Big Problem: It's Not Going Mainstream," and it made me reflect on how we define the word "mainstream," because by any definition I can think of that matters, Twitter is already mainstream.
Henry's article isn't incorrect in its assessment of Twitter's challenges for growth. The microblog does tend to appeal more to those in tech circles than others, and it has a relatively high barrier to entry because it works best after you've dedicated time to find, follow and list the people you care to track. But it is the way Henry equates traffic and users to mainstream that makes me think we might need a different yardstick by which to measure mainstream.
According to the article, Twitter has 145 million users worldwide, but Twitter.com only welcomes slightly less than 29 million unique users each month. On this basis, it might seem to be more niche than mainstream, but if 29 million is not mainstream, then neither is:
My point is that "mainstream" isn't really determined by sheer numbers but by cultural impact, and in this regard is there any question of whether Twitter is mainstream? Consider...
Twitter may never have 500 million users like Facebook, but I hardly believe that means it cannot be "mainstream." In fact, it is funny to observe that Henry's article mentions Lady Gaga's Twitter following is 5.7 million strong and notes, "To put the number in context, according to Wikipedia, Lady Gaga has sold 15 million albums." Just 15 million? That's half of Twitter's monthly uniques! Apparently Ms. Gaga is still niche, and maybe someday if she's really lucky she'll get big and go mainstream!