The crucial difference between old mass media and new social media lies in the network magic, services like Friendfeed are able to perform.
One thing should immediately be evident if you’re using the FFSixDegree tool I coded yesterday: the real power of Friendfeed as a communication infrastructure is its network effect. Even if you are subscribed to no more than a handful of people, you are able to receive updates from a lot more people.
Take for example example Steve Rubel. He’s only subscribed to 79 other Friendfeed users. Is his timeline quiet? Doesn’t have to. If he did not switch off FOAF notifications, he could get updates from up to 10,521 people depending on direct contacts liking and commenting on their friends’ posts.
And while Robert Scoble’s 3,130 subscriptions may sound overwhelming, this is even more true for the 34,441 people he can potentially listen to via his direct contacts. That’s what I would call hyperconnecting.
Don’t forget that this network effect not only holds for your subscriptions, but also for your subscribers. While in the world of old mass media like television or print, an audience of 100 is just that: an audience of 100. But in the world of social media, an audience of 100 can mean that 10,000 are receiving your message relayed by the direct audience of 100. What a difference a network makes!
A final remark: While the general rule is, the more friends you follow, the more friends-of-friends (FOAF) you can reach all in all, this effect is weakening when you’re reaching very high numbers of friends. Your network will eventually become saturated. This illustration shows this point:
On the x-axis is the number of direct friends while the y-axis tells how many friends-of-friends you can reach overall. Some users are a bit more efficient in their selection of friends, some contacts lists are (informationally speaking) redundant.