MySpace Relaunch Focuses on Successful Niche: Entertainment

Shrinking Social Network Retrenches in an Attempt to Reclaim Cultural Relevancy

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- With its battle against Facebook settled long ago, MySpace is relaunching with a focus on the thing it does best: connecting its 120 million global users with the music, TV and movies they love.

A screenshot of the redesigned Myspace homepage.
A screenshot of the redesigned Myspace homepage.

"We want to narrow our focus," CEO Mike Jones said in an interview Tuesday. "This is a first step toward a long-term strategy for the Gen Y audience."

Starting today, MySpace will certainly look different. The new layout has what MySpace VP-User Experience Mike Macadaan described as "Tetris-style tiles"; the screen is divided into tiles of information tidbits, photos, endless scrolling bars of videos, and real-time updates. When asked if the info overload catered to the younger crowd, Mr. Macadaan said, "Yes, it tests extremely well with them."

"MySpace has always been about musicians and artists, but now we are going to focus on curators -- our users," Mr. Jones said. Unlike on Facebook, Mr. Jones said, MySpace users rarely know each other offline, but have common interests around music, movies, TV and celebrities. "So they discover content and make connections through content."

The new strategy is about "premium" content, not old-school user-generated content -- in other words, no more UGC for MySpace. The content around which users are meant to congregate are TV shows such as "Glee," musicians such as Lil Wayne and movies like, well, whatever corporate sibling Fox has coming out. And this premium content is perhaps why Mr. Jones feels MySpace is not a competitor to Facebook, but its hip younger friend that always knows what bands are in town, where to go on a Friday night and what gallery is showing the hottest artist.

Like Yahoo, MySpace hopes to find a niche within all the social networks and tools its users are already using, including onetime rival Facebook. "We feel it's complementary to any other social platform that people use," Mr. Jones said. "It will be a while before there is full functionality with Facebook Connect, but I do see it coming."

Users can hang out on the page of a movie, TV show or music channel and connect with other fans for conversations, contests and friendships. If a user becomes the most prolific poster on that channel, he or she will be anointed the top curator -- and can be ousted from that position -- just like the ousting of "mayor" at a check-in location on Foursquare.

But the years of advertiser bidding wars for MySpace's home page are over, and much of the entertainment spending that fueled its rise has moved on to YouTube and Facebook. "It has fallen off the table in terms of your top list of impact sites," said Chad Stoller, exec VP of digital strategy at BBDO. "If you are launching a video game or a very targeted TV show or album, it's still a great tool if you can't afford the YouTube takeover. I think it becomes more of a discovery platform than a communications platform. It's not the kind of place you want to put your reputation on the line."

An iteration of the new Myspace logo.
An iteration of the new Myspace logo.
Chief Revenue Officer Nada Stirratt said the sales strategy is to bring marketers and entertainment together. For example, Ms. Stirratt described a different kind of home page ad unit: "We want to create a content and marketing experience where the user doesn't have to leave the page," Ms. Stirratt said.

MySpace has shrunk precipitously over the last few years from a high-water mark fueled by a $900 million multi-year advertising deal with Google. The company is expected to make $297 million in 2011, down from $470 million in 2009, according to eMarketer.

It's a new look and strategy for a smaller, more focused property. Hamish McLennan, global CEO of Y&R, said, "What's interesting is that music and entertainment was always part of the MySpace DNA, so they are adding a new dimension to it."

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