CMU Weekly Editor's Letter

CMU Weekly – Friday 1 Jul 2011

By | Published on Friday 1 July 2011

Andy Malt

MySpace has been sold, everyone. I know you didn’t think it was possible that a buyer could be found, but you just hadn’t considered quite how much Justin Timberlake would want it.

OK, Justin didn’t go in on his own, the ailing social network was bought by ad company Specific Media for a reported $35 million on Wednesday – nowhere near the $100 million MySpace boss Mike Jones was bandying around earlier this year, and way off the $580 million News Corp bought it for in 2005.

But Justin is a stakeholder and, seemingly, is being brought in to be the new figurehead of the company. The new Tom, if you like. Specific Media CEO Tim Vanderhook told Billboard that the singer “is going to be the creative force behind MySpace and will help us drive the strategy of what the tools need to be for artists and what the community should look like”.

It’s not clear if Timberlake has sunk any of his own cash into the purchase, despite now owning a chunk of the website. Vanderhook says that Timberlake was top of Specific Media’s list of celebrities who might be able to help get MySpace back on the straight and narrow. After all, he did do a very good job of playing someone who helped a social network get up on its feet in a film. But Timberlake won’t, it was stressed, be a token famous person. He’ll have an office, staff, and perhaps most importantly, be the person everyone remembers when the whole thing goes tits up. OK, no one involved has said that out loud.

Specific’s grand plans are yet to be unveiled. They will apparently come at a press conference in two months. Though Specific has spoken in terms of the advertising opportunities available through such a large and established website. It has millions of user profiles, plus video and music content, all of which is exploitable. It’s reckoned by the new owners that there are still 70 million people visiting the site each month, too.

Which all sounds nice, but MySpace had all those things last week, as well. The fact remains that its traffic is dwindling, and it has ceased to be the place where every band in the world has to have a profile. New bands don’t necessarily sign up, and many of those already there are closing their accounts down. The challenge of bringing people back is going to be a big one, one that might be too big for even Justin Timberlake.

That it lost half a billion dollars in value in six years should be a warning. There’s more to MySpace than just several million pages ripe for advertising on. There’s the clunky technology platform on which the entire site is built the really needs rebuilding from the ground up. There’s lost brand loyalty. There’s the increased competition. Not that these aren’t problems that can’t be overcome, but it’ll be a heck of a job.

MySpace, of course, is a big topic of discussion on this week’s CMU podcast. As are Beyonce’s toilet habits and what she might have done to Tricky at Glastonbury. Elsewhere, Chris and I also chat about HMV finances, the chance that the ‘on air, on sale’ single release system could “die on the cross of self-interest”, plus the Motion Picture Association’s attempt to force BT to block access to copyright-infringing Usenet group Newsbin2, and what that might mean for the music industry.

See you next week,

Andy Malt
Editor, CMU

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