MySpace Continues to Go Outside News Corp. for New Hires

Sling Media's Jason Hirshhorn, AOL's Michael Jones Join New Team Being Built to Stave off Facebook

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- News Corp. Chief Digital Officer Jon Miller continued his remake of MySpace today with the appointment of two new executives, reporting to incoming CEO and former Facebook executive Owen Van Natta. One thing's certain about the new team: They see MySpace as fundamentally different property than Facebook, which surpassed it in buzz and traffic.

Jason Hirschhorn
Jason Hirschhorn
Mr. Miller named former AOL Senior VP Michael Jones as chief operating officer and former Sling Media CEO and MTV Networks Chief Digital Officer Jason Hirschhorn as chief product officer of the No. 2 social network.

The appointments further fill in the blanks at MySpace, whose co-founder and CEO, Chris DeWolfe, stepped down last week and President Tom Anderson agreed to be reassigned within the company.

With the two hires, Mr. Miller is looking outside of News Corp. to assemble an executive team to lead MySpace, News Corp.'s biggest online property and, until last year, the largest social network in the world.

Mr. Miller himself is new to MySpace, having been appointed chief digital officer of News Corp. with oversight of MySpace, IGN Entertainment and News Corp.'s investment in online video service Hulu.

New Corp.'s digital driver
Mr. Miller sees MySpace as the engine for building News Corp.'s digital businesses, and judging from the speed at which he's made changes, he considers fixing it his top priority. Facebook shot past MySpace in international users last year and is now threatening to over take MySpace in the U.S. as well.

Facebook has 274 million unique visitors in February compared to 124 million for MySpace. Domestically, MySpace had 70 million unique visitors in March compared to 62 million for Facebook, according to ComScore.

Mr. Hirschhorn brings established media credentials to the company, and is known to believe MySpace is a fundamentally different property than Facebook, with very different propositions for users and for marketers. MySpace, with MySpace Music and MySpace Video, is much more focused on entertainment than Facebook, which is more of a communications platform.

Mr. Hirschhorn is known to believe that MySpace needs to play up its positioning in media, build more content verticals, and focus on making itself into a powerhouse of display and branded advertising to position to take share as dollars move from traditional media to digital.

MySpace has a much bigger display ad business than Facebook and has made inroads into branded entertainment. The company earned close to $1 billion in ad revenue in 2008, compared to an estimated $300 million for Facebook.

Among the challenges: The site itself is poorly built, the service has suffered from poor product development and, most worrying, it stopped growing last year and recently started to shrink.

Further, MySpace starts at a disadvantage on Madison Avenue because agency execs and brand managers just don't know anyone who actually uses MySpace. That said, marketers would like to have more than one social network to choose from, and plenty of people use both.

"Facebook is on fire, but from a media perspective you like to have choices. And MySpace has 120 million users globally, so I would say it's far from 'game over' by any means," said Sarah Fay, CEO of Aegis North America. "There's also a pretty heavy overlap with Facebook. People are using different social networks for different things."

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