Where now for MySpace?

With talk of News International getting set to sell the granddaddy of social networking sites, MySpace, The Drum takes a look at what needs to be done to turn around the fortunes of the platform.

After originally blowing open the possibilities of social networking, MySpace is now facing up to being typecast as the old, out-dated figure of social platforms. Last week's news that bosses were considering selling the network after halving its 1,000 strong work force is the latest blow to the News Corp. owned business.

Executives are assessing merger and spin-out options which could see MySpace integrated into existing platforms or sold off completely. It relaunched as an entertainment portal in October last year but failed to capture the imagination of surviving members, many of whom had decamped to rivals Facebook or Twitter or embraced music-fronted platforms like SoundCloud or Bandcamp.

It's not all bad news. Late last year, Google agreed a search and advertising deal with the network, while bosses claim that more than 3 million new users have registered since the October relaunch. These factors indicate that MySpace could have a future, but it's difficult to predict in which form the brand will continue. It's much easier to gauge why the network suffered a decline in the face of new platforms.

Jonathan McNamara, co-founder of digital agency Retro Fuzz, who work with major label bands and artists said MySpace didn't move quickly enough. He commented: “You get the impression MySpace was conceived and built with no real thought about the future, and no real idea that it could ever become as successful as it did. Once user counts started to rocket the owners didn’t know what to do.”

McNamara picked out music sharing website SoundCloud (2 million users) as an example of how new platforms have captured music fans attentions, placing emphasis on simple functionality and overall user experience. He identified blogging platform Tumblr as a possible partner for MySpace to move forward, but admitted it may be hard to lure back users with dormant accounts. He concluded: “Whoever takes over MySpace needs to go back and figure out what users want the website to do”.

Jez Hughes, social media manager at Lucid Online, who work directly with major and independent music labels said the platform offered users too much choice, without delivering a satisfactory user experience. He said: “MySpace had too many verticals to serve an audience, too many different elements of the site like groups, games, comedy and film. It was always a site of noise, but the interface meant the content wasn't easy to consume”.

Hughes now works on artist campaigns on Facebook via a multitude of developer apps and pinpointed this as a growth area, but didn't rule out similar user issues in the long run. He said: “What makes Facebook attractive now is that you can create very intelligent applications to house and commercialise music. The only down side is the internal threat from how fast Facebook is growing, user's time is getting divided up across a lot of offerings, and it could face the same saturation problems as MySpace”.

Perhaps there will be room for MySpace in the crowded social networking landscape, and its expected that the brand's music platform will be a key area that potential buyers will focus on. Perhaps Google, who have plans to build their own social network may show interest, while Facebook could buy in - if only to swallow up remaining MySpace users and ensure competitors can't attempt to resurrect its fortunes.

Under pressure bosses are expected to announce the next stage of the MySpace story in the coming weeks.

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