Reclaiming MySpace's lost glory

Hollywood superstar Justin Timberlake is keen to revive the battered social media brand but it will take more than celebrity hype to bring MySpace back.

While Justin Timberlake may have been hugely successful in bringing sexy back, he is now attempting to bring sexy back to Myspace and make it relevant in a Facebook world. Timberlake bought MySpace with Specific Media last year from News Corp. for just $35 million (a real bargain basement price considering News Corp. had paid $580 million for MySpace just six years earlier). At the time, Timberlake had declared that there was a need for a place where fans can go to interact with their favourite entertainers, listen to music, watch videos, share and discover cool stuff and just connect. 

One billion Facebook users will probably tell you that they already have that place.

Music centric

But Timberlake and Specific Media’s intent is to make MySpace your music-centric online space again. Indeed, back in the early years of the last decade Myspace was the place for teenagers and 20-something hipsters to hang out and express themselves online. However, heavy use of banner advertisements eventually took its toll. Users got bored hanging around waiting for pages to load and quickly jumped ship to Facebook.

So what’s going to lure users back? Can MySpace reclaim its lost glory?

Featuring a heavy music component, with radio and playlist sharing, the new MySpace promises to continue its entertainment focus as a place to play and discover music, add photos, videos and playlists and connect with artists. It promises to be the space for artists to stay in touch with fans.

And judging by the company’s promotional video in which Timberlake features heavily, the new MySpace certainly looks like it’s got its mojo back.

Pinterest-esque feel

The site looks slick and enticing with a Pinterest-esque feel. There’s an entirely new design with a clean looking interface, lots of white space, photos, horizontal scrolling and seamless integration with Facebook and Twitter. From the video, it seems that you can populate MySpace with your photos and videos from other social networks, as well as update your Facebook and Twitter statuses right from the new MySpace.

Unfortunately, we can’t try this for ourselves at the moment as the new site is currently closed to the public. A message on new.myspace.com declares: “Welcome. This is Myspace. We’re hard at work building the new Myspace, entirely from scratch. But we’re staying true to our roots in one important way—empowering people to express themselves however they want. So whether you’re a musician, photographer, filmmaker, designer or just a dedicated fan, we’d love for you to be a part of our brand new community. Please leave us your email below and expect an invite very soon.”

I’m sure there will be a lot of initial interest, but one in seven of our planet’s population is already addicted to Facebook, busily sharing, socialising and just hanging out on the social networking site. Facebook users upload something like 300 million photos every day, play more than 60 million songs and have racked up more than one trillion likes. It’s become part of our everyday experience. So how will MySpace fit into your Facebook world?

Interestingly, while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg courts his next billion users with forays into Russia and Africa, you can’t help feeling that there’s a growing disquiet amongst long term users. It may just be a matter of saturation, but perhaps the Facebook tide is turning? Perhaps the Myspace timing is just right? Attracting just one tenth of the Facebook population would be a staggering achievement.

What about the mobile experience?

While it would take a migration of biblical proportions to render Facebook impotent to marketers, Facebook is struggling with how to deliver an optimised mobile experience and adapt its business model to the small screen. While its advertising revenue is largely derived from displaying ads and other commercial content for users accessing the site from PCs, there’s no meaningful revenue from mobile. There’s no meaningful experience for users.

Yet as beautiful as the MySpace site looks in the promotional video, there’s nothing in that video that showcases the site on smartphones and tablet devices and how users will interact with the content when they’re on the go. As mobile usage starts to outstrip desktop usage, this has to be a major priority. Mark Zuckerburg admits that his hardest job right now is figuring out how to adapt Facebook to mobile devices in part because the user experience is so different than on desktop computers. Surely Timberlake and Co have thought about this?

Simon van Wyk is the founder of digital agency HotHouse. 

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