Monday, February 01, 2010

MySpace to Rise Again? :: Thoughts on CEO Van Natta Interview

I've blogged about not counting MySpace out and this blog will be reinforcing these thoughts.  I think it has fantastic potential as a platform that's tied to music, games, and entertainment. Whereas Facebook is about social networking, I see MySpace as a social portal, an intermediary that users can go to obtain, manage, share, and interact on all things entertainment.  In the near future, I'll be blogging about a mock-up of how I envision this. It will incorporate virtual community concepts, as well as georeferencing.

Here's a link to a TechCrunch interview with MySpace CEO, Owen Van Natta. Sure, MySpace is still the butt of the joke and potshots were taken at Van Natta on this week's "Weekend Update" segment of SNL. Nevertheless, it's still a going concern and is part of media behemoth, News Corporation. The video of the interview follows::

It's a longish interview, so here's the paraphrased lowdown on Van Natta's take on the future of MySpace::
  • What is MySpace? It's a place to discover, share, and showcase content in a highly social environment.
  • What about the competition, e.g., Facebook? MySpace is embracing openness. Deals with Twitter and to a limited extent, Facebook Connect-UK, as well as acquisitions of iLike and iMeem, are part of a strategy of letting users engage in content where they want to.
  • What will MySpace's role be with respect to content?  Relationships with the music industry allows for a music experience for the user in one location. Interest in expanding to mobile applications of music, e.g., streaming, with a focus on music discovery. MySpace has a partnerships with YouTube and Hulu and 400 other content creators and producers.
  • Will there be a full Facebook integration? Open to it.
  • How will MySpace catch up with design & technology? Lots of focus on increasing usability of the site. Hired usability guru Katie Geminder. Don't expect a gig relaunch, as changes will be iterative due to scale of the site and userbase. Looking at usage patterns to sunset features.
  • Is Facebook focused on being the "pipes" around social and MySpace focused on being the social experience around "content"? MySpace has a unique selling proposition of being a place to socialize around content. MySpace has an open social graph, people expect to connect to other people who have similar interests.  [Yeah!]
  • Any shifts in MySpace's revenue strategy? The contraction in the economy means more users online, but less dollars are available to be spent on promotions. MySpace can deliver tight market segmentation for integrated promotions and launches for the entertainment industry.
I must admit I'm really interested in seeing how MySpace evolves in the next few years in a way very much distinct from Facebook.  Facebook replicates existing social relationships and allows users to bridge to "friends-of-friends", i.e., second and higher -order ties in social networking sociology parlance. It's really not set up to interact with others based on affinities. Sure, you can go through the list in a group or fanpage, but it's awkward to expand one's network in that fashion.

Here's what I said in September::
"My idea would be to create a social portal where users can search for professionally produced and high quality indie content and link them to their profiles and manage it with a good usability experience.  Allow users to interact with others on the basis of their [1] geographic proximities {e.g., Downtown Toronto, Eastbay, Williamsburg-Brooklyn, etc.} and [2] content-related affinities. "
Whoops. I tipped my hand when I said "indie." I think MySpace can be a platform for all things entertainment-related, from blockbusters and superstars to the indie film and the local garage band. One's MySpace page can be used to obtain and share content and information. Based on profile information, contextual ads can target users based on what they like. With iMeem and iLike, users become DJs that can expose other users to content in ways that would be much more limited on Facebook.

MySpace profile pages can be a users' one-stop destination for entertainment, online and in the real world. A strong geographic/local component could help users get information on things to do with suggestions based upon their profiles and actions on the site, as well as dragging in data via RSS and APIs. While part of me cringes at the thought of a site helping to structure all of my free time around fun things to do, see, hear, and experience, another part of me curses the times when I miss a band that came to town a week before I even heard of them or missed a movie in the theatres because it didn't show up on my radar. I see MySpace as having great potential where anyone who wants to be an opinion leader can try to be one and those wanting to follow others because they lack confidence in their own taste can do so. I keed, I keed.

The data would be a goldmine for the entertainment industry, but as TiVo has experienced, just because you have something valuable doesn't mean companies will pay for it.

In my mind, the breakdown is clear and I'm thinking of two different modes. Facebook and Twitter are about creating and maintaining relational ties through communications. MySpace could be about fun through interacting with others around entertainment content, regardless of whether you know them or not. The two can overlap, so the modes are not mutually exclusive, but the purposes are distinct.

Twitterversion:: TechCrunch interview w/#MySpace CEO inspires blog on future rise of MySpace as entertainment portal. Video & transcript.  @Prof_K

Song:: The Jam-"That's Entertainment"

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