Will MySpace survice
You might remember MySpace, for a while it looked like being the world’s most popular social network. Of course things didn’t quite work out that way. Arguably more of the more extravagant acquisitions of the Web 2.0 age, founder Tom Anderson’s pet project was bought up by Rupert Maxwell’s News Corp in 2005 for $580 million and never looked forward. As Facebook gained traction by spreading virally through university campuses, MySpace’s uptake began to slow, turning it from a place to find people into a place to find music, magazines, TV shows and original Web series. While Google would outstrip News Corp with its $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube the following year, MySpace showed that communities could be commodities in and of themselves, proving themselves rich pickings for bands looking for their big break (Arctic Monkeys one case in point) or for marketers looking for a direct line to the youth market.
The post-acquisition years, however, have not been kind to MySpace. Hammered not only by Facebook but a proliferation of niche networks its user base has stalled at a grand total of 66 million users. While hardly out for the count, comparing this figure with 69 million users for European network Badoo, 117 million for the ailing Bebo; 100 million for Orkut; 91.6 million for Russia’s Vkontakte; and 200 million for China’s Qzone; you can’t help but wonder where it all went wrong.
Ask anyone suffering from a bad case of the Facebook bug and they’ll tell you they’re not on MySpace because: a) none of their friends are there and b) there’s not much to do if you bother joining. Part of the success of Facebook has been its developer-friendly attitude, especially in its embracing of third party applications and casual gaming. Believe it or not game developer Zynga’s flagship titles Farmville and Mafia Wars are responsible for over $1 billion a year in revenue – and while users are buying virtual tractors and birthday presents on Facebook they’re spending more time on the site, improving its ‘stickiness’ and increasing the amount of time users will be exposed to ads based on the personal information they so willingly shared by setting up their accounts.
So how does MySpace make up for years of decline? It gets a makeover.
To be fair this is something of an oversimplification. Yes, MySpace has acquired a new logo and a fresh page design that looks considerably neater than previous iterations, but the current revamp goes much further than its previous strategy of mimicking the biggest player. Visually the new MySpace owes more to the likes of iGoogle and MyYahoo in its design. Each element is modular and can be moved about the home page and docked based on personal preference. Activity walls will be dynamically updated like a news feed to display friend activity in real time and trending topics from around the Web will be shown so users can keep up with the global conversation.
What’s more impressive about the new MySpace is the shift away from focusing on connecting people to people to connecting people with content, thus reinventing itself as a personalised entertainment platform. While some of the new features have yet to be fully explained – ‘content hubs’ for example – it’s safe to say that there’s not actually much going on that hasn’t been seen before. The absence of geolocation updates – all the rage since Foursquare came to prominence – is a notable absence, but if the direction is more about people as curators than people as actors this could be excusable. The one major criticism the content-based approach was tried before by a network on the verge of greatness and fell flat: Bebo.
Bought out by AOL for $850 million in 2008, Bebo had just about struck a balance between social network and content platform until a disastrous American launch failed to generate any traction in the US market. A busy press release section on Bebo.com shows there is life in the site yet, but AOL still sold up in June to hedge fund Criterion Capital Partners for a figure reportedly less than $10 million.
What MySpace doesn’t have to worry about is a costly launch into a new market, but the rush to retain its membership base – let alone attract new ones – will have it straddling the gap between being hip while retaining a populist outlook attractive to marketers and media buyers. Still, with revenues of $385 million reported in 2009 it could be said MySpace is in a stronger commercial position than Bebo, despite having only about half the population.
Will the new MySpace work? Well, like everything to do with it since 2005 you can’t say what it’s up to hasn’t been done before, but it’s not a tried-and-tested formula. Can MySpace do it better? That’s up to the members to decide. The ones that are left, anyway.
published by techcentral
Uploaded by Niall Mulrine, Navenny, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal, Ireland