Monday, September 21, 2009

MySpace: Perhaps the problems have less to do with innovation and technology...

This morning at OMAA Global, Jonathan Miller, new CEO of the digital media group at NewsCorp stated that it was a lack of innovation that has tripped up MySpace the once-most-popular social networking site on the net:
"There's no question that [MySpace] fell behind on the technology front and on the product front," Miller said. "This business is one of continual innovation, and we're very focused on building a product and technology organization that innovates."

What Miller did not address, however, is what people actually *say* about MySpace, as well as the audience MySpace has neglected, which is what may have contributed to the precipitous drop in unique visitor count in July to 68.4 million.

People overall have lost interest in MySpace--not because of the technology, but because of the community and its inability to mature along with the people who created it. When NewsCorp bought MySpace back in 2005, it concentrated its marketing efforts on young people (13 and over.) A heretofore network for the party-hearty crowd (I had a profile there in late 2004 at the end of my rather non-existent goth dj career) began to be promoted a place to meet "friends." But they also found that they could find just their local friends, but friends all over the country/world as well as their favorite bands, wannabe porn queens, various club nites, parties, wild self-promoters, and anyone else who'd been booted out of Friendster.

They could also post naughty pictures of themselves, construct alternative identities, and bully others. There were no grown-ups there to tell them what to do.

Since then, the young people who flocked to MySpace in 2005 (with, perhaps, a median age of 17) ended up going to College and desiring to put some distance between themselves and those friends who didn't seem to quite grow up,and the alternative identites that didn't fit anymore.

In a short time after MySpace was bought by Newscorp, upstart competitor Facebook opened itself up to the high-school crowd and with a clean, well-lit, uncustomizable community. It was a welcome change to. It established a certain cachet apart from the hurly burly of MySpace.

Facebook started as invitation only to the Ivy League.
MySpace started with the partying crowd of L.A.
Facbook was for those who went on Spring Break, not Easter Vacation.
Facebook had class.

If anything, at its height, and with people like Tila Tequila and Christine Dolce battling it out for the most "friends," MySpace had crass. Lots and lots of it.

In many, many ways beyond Tila and Christine,and Emo boys and would-be singers cum Governor-trashing escorts, MySpace made parents nervous because it of its openness-- which also allowed for the infamous "online predators."

We can't really forget all *that* particular bad MySpace press now, can we?

At that time, Facebook just seemed safer (even though everything on it is public information that organizations esp. can find one way or another, if they want.) And when Facebook decided to open up to the general public in 2006, it scored as big with the grown-up professionals as it had with Ivy Leaguers.

Adults--unless they had particular reasons for being on MySpace--weren't given to putting up MySpace profiles. But they sure did go for Facebook's clean and fun social space that didn't require customizing and didn't offer garish colors nor carry tasteless flashing banner ads.

Along the way, there would a lot on Facebook for professional adults and college kids to kvetch about with Facebook, but Facebook tends to listen to the kvetches, and makes changes when the protests or requests are vocal (hence the Twitter interface--and don't think it was the kids who were jumping for joy about *that* one.) Facebook overall is still quite fine for professionals who don't mind having others in their professional networks see a silly picture or two or know that they listen to Lady GaGa. It has also done a lot to beef up its Fan pages, making it easier for businesses to have a Facebook presence--an important thing when you consider that some very good word-of-mouth/social media marketing could be done on Facebook.

So, think about it: is it really lack of innovation or bad techology that has tripped up MySpace? Honestly, it was more of a bad community strategy, a lack of ability to understand what those who don't want to show off their belly button piercings might want from a social network. As its audience began to mature, MySpace's attitude didn't change. The folks who might have been fans of some goth emo band at 17 just might have given that band up by 22, and also got their first jobs and some responsibility that might require a little less heavy sighing and posturing.

MySpace kept its loudmouth party-heartiness, but, when the party moves on, it just wasn't up to the task. Like the guy who's still wearing a mullet and listening to Whitesnake, MySpace as a community--as an entity--is a bit out of step these days.

And I'm not sure the mullet's going to be coming back any time soon.


Anonymous said...

"MySpace: Perhaps the problems have less to do with innovation and technology..."

"... and more with getting beaten by the ugly stick."

Tish Grier said...

you got that right, Mike. Ugliest social networking site I've ever seen....