MySpace's Second Act: 'A Window For Youth Culture'

MySpaceIs it me or does it feel as if everyone has written off MySpace as the next Friendster. With all of the media fawning over Facebook and Twitter, and the reality that MySpace has been struggling and going through changes (losing users, founders leaving, widespread layoffs), my sense is that many people in the tech/media world aren’t very optimistic about MySpace’s prospects. Granted, I haven’t logged in for months and primarily use Facebook, but I’m also 37. I’m going to play the contrarian and argue that everything I’ve read lately about how MySpace is planning to reposition itself makes me optimistic that the site could emerge stronger than ever by literally going back to its roots of being a hub for young tastemakers. Or as this MySpace insider shared with the UK Telegraph:

Moving forward, the network will focus on being a window for youth culture to reflect all their creative talents. Facebook has won the social networking war and now MySpace needs to focus on what it can bring to the table.

While I agree with danah boyd’s thesis that there has been a degree of “white flight” among youth from MySpace to Facebook, I also believe that growing youth Facebook fatigue, combined with a new and improved MySpace could bring some younger Facebook users, especially those who are creative, or who are tired of reading their parents’ status updates, back to MySpace.

While Facebook has made it clear they want to be for the masses, MySpace is sending their own “moon man” with a a new flag reasserting itself as a “window for youth culture.” They are building on their early days as a community populated largely by twentysomething musicians, artists and other creative tastemakers/self promoters in L.A., but on a much larger scale. I think MySpace has a shot at becoming the number one music/entertainment community for youth if Owen Van Natta can:

- apply what he learned from Facebook and improve the user experience on MySpace (and control the spam)

- streamline and simplify while offering templates flexible enough for creative types to still make the space their own, and easily find likeminded “friends” and “fans” based on their creative interests/entertainment tastes

- continue to offer exclusive content nobody else has first (New Moon trailer, youth focused webisodes)

- leverage their planned “data-focused features” as a part of MySpace music, “publish[ing] trends, track[ing] influencers and creat[ing] lists of top-played and playlisted content of not only major bands and artists but also of all the independent work on millions of MySpace artist pages”

With a clear demographic, they will also beat Facebook by giving advertisers a targeted audience of youth 16-30. MySpace should also invest in building a non-traditional advertising department that can work with together with their audience to really push these brands to go beyond the banner and create/experiment with programs that add value for its users (as well as making the site feel less like a giant billboard).

What do you think? Have you written off MySpace?

9 Comments

  1. Greg Rollett

    Mysapce is hurting - but that is on the surface of the media. It is still a defacto necessity for the music industry and the video platform is 2nd to only YouTube. Not bad for a has been.

    If they can hit restart on their UI, really engage their audience and find advertisers that can find value in being in front of one of the most inportant demos, then Myspace has a chance.

    If they put advertisers over the users, however, they will lose any shot they have to get this audience back.

    You also have to think about mobile too - how can they best optimize this entertainment platform with the all the mobile trends and growth? That is going to be a great test for both Myspace and Facebook as sites like Last.FM and YouTube have a stronghold on that mobile space for entertainment.

  2. Tracy Hill

    Anastasia, you are right on the money.  Myspace has some great opportunities to work with in turning itself around.  However, I would disagree with you that Myspace cannot reach an audience older than thirty with an entertainment focused site.  You are 37—I’m sure that you have favorite bands.  You probably download their music on iTunes and pay to see them in concert, correct?  Don’t you want to know information about those bands?  Dave Matthews, Foo Fighters, U2, etc.  all have rabid fans that are over thirty as well as fan that are younger.  Additionally, some 16 year-olds love the Jonas Brothers while others love Incubus. As long as Myspace covers a variety or artists in a way that is engaging, they can own the online music space amongst all age groups.  Unfortunately, at the moment that isn’t happening so they are loosing users, and getting nailed in the press.  Yes, Myspace’s main focus should be youth culture, but every now and then they should throw in a cool Bruce Springsteen or Prince promotion, etc. 

    As far as them increasing their non-traditional marketing, they are definitely aware of that.  They just need to put the plan into action and spend the money to do it right. They need to be at the major music festivals (which they know), and more importantly, they need to find much better ways of leveraging the events they are already doing in ways that sponsors can connect with their users.  For example, I think that Myspace Hip Hop is one of the best parts of Myspace, yet they aren’t doing a very good job at putting together sponsorship packages around those events.  Now that Vibe magazine is dust, they have a HUGE opportunity to connect brands that want to reach the urban audience.

  3. anastasia

    Hey Tracy. Thanks for your comment! I definitely think MySpace will attract some older folks who are into music, but given it’s new positioning, that won’t be all older people or “everyone”—and just as younger people may be comfortable on a site that feels more like their own, if MySpace repositions along the lines they are describing, there will be some older people that don’t want to be on a site that feels so youth-identified. (let’s say people not as into music or who just prefer a more mature ethos around social networking and entertainment content). It’s also not in MySpace’s interest to dilute this core demo of 16-30 for the targeted advertisers they seek.

    As for me, I’m a streamer, use Pandora and iTunes occasionally. Though I do check out a band’s MySpace page if I’m considering going to a local show and haven’t really heard their music before ;-)

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  6. Benton

    Myspace is dead as…dead. Sure every musician has a band page but that is certainly not the only access point to the band. They dug their heals in and wouldn’t make updates to their networking functionality until far too late looking like a facebook copy cat with more emoticons they lost their user base out of laziness and a lackluster interface. Now, they try to reposition themselves as the cool kid in school were all the youth come to contribute their work, that’s a 40 y/o white womans marketing agenda as she hopes to god her lessons from hanging her kids artwork on the refrigerator translates to this. Deviant art, flickr, wordpress, cloud, blogspot, any of the other picture posting blogging music websites ring a bell?

    The good thing is I think they showed what happens when you are too lazy to apply innovative features to your mix and now Firefox and IE are clamoring to build the next fastest browser as Chrome sneaks in and steals market share.

    This is true capitalism the survival of the fittest and fastest and myspaces fat ass lost. I’ll be over at itunes and last.fm listening to a mash up. A window to the youth.

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