NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In a heavily anticipated move, MySpace has named former Facebook exec Owen Van Natta as CEO. He replaces Myspace founder Chris DeWolfe, who left the post a day and a half ago but is staying on as an adviser. Mr. Van Natta's hiring was first reported by AllThingsD.com.
Mr. Van Natta had been running Playlist.com, a litigation-mired music website that has run into trouble with several major record labels. At MySpace, he'll still have a hand in music, ultimately responsible for MySpace Music, which launched six months ago. He'll report to Jonathan Miller, who was recently named CEO of digital media and chief digital officer of MySpace parent News Corp.
Prior to Playlist, Mr. Van Natta was an key executive at Facebook, where he was VP-operations and chief revenue officer. The move to MySpace is especially interesting, given the difference in monetization tactics between Facebook and MySpace. The latter social site has played largely within marketers' comfort zones and its monetization strategy has taken on a more traditional online-marketing look. It sells big, integrated sponsorships, broad-reach home-page takeovers and has done a search deal with Google. It has also launched large-scale effectiveness studies, trying to help translate its metrics in terms major marketers understand.
Facebook, on the other hand, has outsourced many of its more traditional marketing tactics, such as display ads, instead spending much of its efforts developing and introducing new forms of ads, which it calls Engagement Ads.
The difference in strategies has manifested itself in revenue: MySpace has competed for portal dollars and was expected to book around $1 billion in ad revenue in 2008, compared with Facebook's estimated $300 million. (MySpace contributes most of Fox Interactive Media's revenue, which in quarter ended Dec. 31, 2008, totaled $226 million.)
In terms of audience, however, it's a different story: Facebook had 274 million unique visitors internationally in February, compared with 124 million for MySpace, according to ComScore. Facebook said it recently surpassed 200 million worldwide registered users.
MySpace is still hanging on to a narrow lead in the U.S., but even that is under threat. Facebook had 61.7 million unique visitors in March, according to ComScore, a 6.7% increase from February. MySpace had 70.2 million unique visitors, but it lost 160,000 unique visitors from February and is down 3.6% from last year.
MySpace has had a legacy of trying to bridge the technology and content industries, from its MySpace Video programming to the launch of MySpace music to its dual California office locales, in Los Angeles and San Francisco. That strategy is expected to continue under Mr. Van Natta.
Before joining Facebook, Mr. Van Natta led global market and business development at Amazon and helped launch Amazon's search engine, A9.com. In a statement, Mr. Miller said, "Owen combines a deep understanding of social networking, a keen business sense and the operational experience to guide MySpace through its next phase of growth. I'm confident his leadership will be an invaluable asset."
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Contributing: Michael Learmonth