Lex Friedman blogs here.

Lex is the EVP of Sales and Development for Midroll, the world's best podcast advertising network.

He was previously Macworld's senior writer, and continues to contribute to the publication. He is the cohost of the Not Playing podcast, a cohost of the Turning This Car Around podcast, a cohost of the The Rebound podcast, and the sole host of the Your Daily Lex podcast.

Lex's first book, The Snuggie Sutra, is exactly what it sounds like. His most recent book is a Dr. Seuss parody for adults; it's called The Kid in the Crib.

You should follow him on both Twitter and App.net.

Lex would be delighted to speak at your awesome event.

Netflix loses some friends

I love Netflix, and I’m consistently delighted by the service.

Recently, the company cut the “Friends” feature from its site without comment. Users, as they do, revolted. A week or two later, Netflix finally published an announcement explaining the feature’s absence. The announcement was well-written, focusing on the fact that only a small minority of members (2%) ever availed themselves of the friends feature, and that by focusing the development resources elsewhere, the company could do more good for more customers.

After reading the reasoned, polite blog post, Netflix’s customers who were negatively impacted by the loss of the Friends feature begrudgingly accepted the company’s stance.

Hahahahahahaha. No, they went apeshit. Customers posted oodles of complaints and tirades as comments on the blog post.

Netflix definitely bungled the early messaging. The company should have blogged about removing Friends at the time of their movie page redesign, so that it could tout all the improvements tied directly to the feature’s departure. Better still would have been to make more significant feature additions to counteract the loss. Netflix knows from experience that its customers are passionate; a similar uproar ensued when Netflix cut the Profiles feature. 

That time, of course, Netflix relented and agreed to keep the feature. So today’s noisy Netflix membership thinks the squeakier it gets, the more likely it is that Netflix will again bend to its will.

And it would be tough to blame Netflix for doing so. The PR impact of a massive wall of comment text lambasting your company, its communication, and its decision is no fun at all.

But I don’t think Netflix should cave this time.

Netflix isn’t stupid. If only 2% of members ever added friends, but those 2% generated more revenue per customer than other members, Netflix wouldn’t axe the feature. These are power users, and they probably return movies faster and watch instantly more often, costing Netflix more. If the company thinks it can better allocate resources previously devoted to the Friends feature, I agree. I’d love to see what new stuff Netflix will come up with; the service has continually improved since I’ve been a member.

It’s easy, though, to fall into the trap of wanting to appear magnanimous in the face of such hostility, just to make it go away.

Don’t, Netflix. I don’t object to throwing a bone—exposing members’ movie ratings via the API, if those members opt-in to allowing that data to be shared. But I don’t think even that is necessary.

Customers aren’t always right. They always think they are. But it’s like football coaches: If they listen to every playcall the folks in the stands want, they’ll soon be sitting alongside them in the cheap seats.

As a wise man once said: You can please some of the people some of the time, and some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please some of the people some of the time. ;)

Posted on March 18th, 2010