Trying to keep the Poors out of its exclusive social network, the Financial Times is charging £2000 for an annual membership in the "FT Media and Technology Executive Membership Forum." This includes discounts on FT conferences, where all the real networking is done anyway. Really, can you imagine joining this site and messaging another exec because you don't have enough pull to e-mail them? I can, and that's why this is such a terrible idea for anyone with valuable time.
The tech and media business world, like any world, is full of people figuring out their relative worth. I mean more than pecking order; I mean that my time is worth much less than my boss's, and his time is worth much less than Rupert Murdoch's. The important measure is whether I'm worth five minutes, an hour, or a weekend of Murdoch's time. That way I know whether to approach him at a conference, ask him to lunch, or take him to Tahoe. The real answer is "none of the above," so I know that if I want anything from him, I'd better wait until I have an excuse.
Social networks flatten this relative value. On Facebook, if I'm your friend and you're Dame Judi Dench's friend, I might try to broker an introduction. I won't know that I'm worth an hour of your time each day and you're worth five minutes of hers each year.
Silicon Valley execs don't seem to get this, or any other simple principle about not wasting people's time. So they get their companies to finance every sort of conference and group membership (seriously I went to one all about making money from Facebook apps) where they can harass their superiors in the industry. Of course they'll come to a social network that supposedly makes everyone available!
Business plans in the Valley are bogglingly stupid. I met a likable but naive man who's building software that lets your car radio read blogs out loud to you. There's an entire funded company built around putting little "If you liked this, you'd also like..." notifications on blogs. Now imagine paying $4000 a year to get bothered by these people.
The only good networking is the kind that requires more than money.