By Robert Young With nearly 60 million registered users, 15 billion page views per month, and more than 150,000 new users signing up every day, MySpace is that rare social networking contagion that keeps spreading and growing. Can this beast be stopped? Is there anyone out […]

By Robert Young

With nearly 60 million registered users, 15 billion page views per month, and more than 150,000 new users signing up every day, MySpace is that rare social networking contagion that keeps spreading and growing. Can this beast be stopped? Is there anyone out there that can challenge the leadership of MySpace? Can any of the many new upstarts, like Tagworld and MyYearBook lap MySpace into the pole position?

With numbers like that, its safe to say that MySpace has essentially captured the entirety of Americas youth. Moreover, these kids have created their own unique MySpace profile pages that are, in turn, rapidly becoming their personalized dashboards to everything that is important to them in their daily lives. Currently, that includes social networks of their online friends, venues to communicate with them, and collections of their favorite music & videos.

But as they mature, and their hunger for new types of information, media, and social connections expand, they will want their dashboards to grow and morph with them, each personalized with only the items that they are individually interested in. At the end of the day, services like MySpace have the rare opportunity to become the ultimate console for consumer control (C3).

Every media and technology company on the planet, both old and new, will eventually all be battling each other for presence on these millions of C3s. The way I see it, C3s represent the killer app and the end-game for the alphabet soup (e.g. XML, RSS, AJAX, etc.) that is Web 2.0, and the early adopters this time are proving to be the teenagers (just like I grew up with the PC in my most formative years, these kids are the first generation to grow up with the Internet).

And as adoption moves beyond the teenagers to the mass market, C3s will become the platform of choice for media creation, consumption, and distribution. In such context, how brilliant a move was it for Rupert Murdoch to have scooped up MySpace when he did? Conversely, how short-sighted is it for anyone who wants/needs significant share of the attention economy to *not* develop, or acquire, a similar strategic asset for their portfolio of web services?

As unbeatable as MySpaces market position seems at this juncture, it behooves anyone eyeing this space to remember that consumers are faddish and fickle. There is no demo where this more true than it is with teenagers. This means there is still ample market opportunity to take market share away from MySpace, especially as everyone is trying to figure out what the ideal C3 platform will ultimately look like.

Recently, two fellow bloggers provided their unique perspectives on this general subject matter:

  1. Umair Haque’s post on MySpace ; and
  2. Greg Yardley’s post on Yahoos social media strategy.

So in an effort to add to the conversation, let me chime in with my own thoughts.From a strategic viewpoint, there are two fundamental qualifiers that anyone whos looking into this space should first consider:

  1. look for social media services that specifically target the markets low-hanging fruit, specifically the teenage demographic (e.g. the older the demo, the less valuable the property in this context); and then
  2. further filter out the contenders by identifying those services that have successfully crossed the chasm of early-stage viral adoption (the elbowof the hockey-stick adoption curve).

On the latter point, it should be emphasized that such adoption is not predictive… as Yahoo! and Google are finding out with their social networking experiments, there is no proven transportable formula for creating the next viral mega-hit. Rather, pinpointing such potential is almost a purely empirical exercise of wait-and-see… based on adoption/usage data, look for the services that have reached the inflection point.The big reason why this is the case, more than ever, is due to the fact that a social media services competitive edge increasingly comes from the community itself, and not from central planning (as I wrote in my previous piece here

In my own analysis of this space, there are a limited number of services that meet the aforementioned qualifications. But thats only the first round. If you then further refine the analysis with added criteria, one service stands outamong its peers… and thats myYearbook.com (some recent growth numbers can be found here.)

So I recently met with the founders of myYearbook.com to get a closer look. Not only do I think they represent the best contender to give MySpace a run for their money, I also believe they have a better model that is more solid and sustainable over time, and less vulnerable to consumer market volatilities. As for why thats the case, youll have to wait until I post the second part of this story, which will be sometime in the next few days (meanwhile, you can read what this week’s edition of BusinessWeek had to say about them.)

As an exec at Delphi Internet Services, Robert Young played a key role in launching the industrys first nationwide ISP (he then orchestrated the sale of Delphi to Rupert Murdoch). Then as founder/ceo of Freemark Communications, he invented the business of free email and Pay-Per-Click internet advertising. Robert is currently focused on superdistribution digital music pioneer, Weedshare.com, and is also in the process of starting up a new venture in the online video space.

  1. Om

    Actually Myspace.com is just about less than half the size of Neopets. Yes Neopets! Neopets has about 150 million registered users and has far richer content than any online media outlet in my opinion. If you want to hit home run may be try craving out best of Myspace.com and Neopets. One thing I noticed with all the successful social networking sites, If you focus on activities/hobbies such as music you seem to have better luck reaching audience than being general purpose social networking site.

  2. Hey Om,

    What’s with all these abbreviations?

    First it was Sextel, and now even your guests are spouting C3s!

    And there are all those babes you keep mentioning every once in a while.

    I think there’s a secret James Bond fantasy going on here!!

    (Good post, by the way)

  3. I totally agree with you Robert. So much of the craziness of Myspace is about having or wanting to maintain an identity. And that is why it is so huge among the demographic of the teens to the mid twenties where they spend much time defining who they are from a social perspective.

    I have a login for Facebook(www.facebook.com)… and I use that as a BC alum to stay in touch with people from college. I have a login at Linkedin (www.linkedin.com) and I use that for my professional networking. I have heard about a social networking site that is launching soon geared towards social activists. I think that as social networking sites mature they will become more specialized. And I think that today Myspace is just the MTV of the social networking world. And because this demographic has most expendable time and care about connecting in this way that represents identity, Myspace I think has hit a social networking sweetspot for now.

    I see Myspace as a generalist, and any site that goes general and hopes to compete with Myspace will end up losing. Sites that target specific groups of people who will deliver a more relevant experience, and draw users from Myspace.

  4. secret james bond fantasy…. not very secret, i though. clearly have to stop being cryptic.

  5. it’s going to be a daunting task to steal market share from myspace…

  6. I just checked out MyYearbook. The party line seems to be “MySpace doesn’t care about its users because they show ads. We’re never going to show ads”. So I guess the obvious question is how they plan to monetize their site? But I s’pose that’s what’s coming up in the next post.

  7. MySpace.com is blocked in the UAE. (The company buying your ports).

    Probably because people use it for “dating”, which is banned here.

  8. Hi Om. It seems to me that nobody learned a thing during Bubble, er, Web 1.0 regarding traffic and user stats… and how utterly bogus and self-serving most such numbers are.

    MySpace is undoubtedly wildly popular and the flavor of the minute for kids on the web. But 60 million reg users? 150K new users per day? Hmmmmmmmmm. There are 300 million USA citizens. So MySpace has already signed up 1 in 5 Americans?!? Seems painfully unlikely.

    But no, you say, some users are non-USA. OK, how many? 10%? 20%? Even at the latter MySpace is still claiming to have registered 1 in 6 Americans. NFW, IMHO.

    And what percentage of Americans are in the MySpace demographic (teens and young adults)? Maybe 1 in 5 Americans? (The baby boom is still the big bulge in the demographic bell curve). So MySpace is claiming to have registered 60 million out of… 60 million young Americans? NFW, IMHO.

    The key word here is “de-duplicate” — a standard housekeeping practice (a requirement actually) in professional Direct Marketing but NFW in the web world. De-duplicate MySpace’s registrant list — get rid of the multiple registrations by the same individuals — and I wager that you’d find the 80/20 rule applies. Maybe even the 90/10 rule. MySpace probably has 6 million true registered users and is signing up 15K new users per day — still darn respectable but not earth-shaking and certainly easy to be “beaten”.

  9. i think that MySpace can be beaten in the very same way as the company itself beat Friendster. Many of the people that make up MySpace’s audience will jump ship quite easily if the perception starts to loom that MySpace is “uncool”. This attitude of “follow the most popular” that is common in many teenagers is a big liability for Myspace and other similar social networks; sure they’ll be flavor of the minute but their rapid adoption will be matched and beaten only by their rapid decline unless they can give a strong actual reason to use the site in the first place.

    I also look forward to hearing about MyYearBook’s (talk about being uncreative with the name!) business model because if they are promising never to show ads then it remains to be seen what they’re upto. I’m guessing that they’ll let users print yearbooks with their friends photos and blogs in them through a partnership with QOOP.

  10. wow, steve seems to sure know a lot about the internet. for every legitimate signup, there are 9 bogus or duplicate ones…uh…no. all 60MM are not active, nor are they all unique, but it’s most definitely not to the degree that steve insists.

    every college student that has access to a computer has a myspace or facebook account (yes, _every_ one). it is a phenomemon…go to a campus and poll 10 people on whether or not they have a myspace account. 10 out of 10 will have one.

    I’m going to guess that myspace actually has 45-50MM unique signups and 20MM active users. very impressive numbers for a company that’s only 2.5 years old.

    Regarding the Web 1.0 slight. While users and page views were used as currency in the late nineties and people like to make fun of how silly those metrics were, they have proven to be _extremely_ valuable now. So, if there’s something to learn from “web 1.0″, it’s that if you build your business for long term success the rewards will be tremendous. Look at the value companies like pricegrabber, bizrate, neopets and others have created in the past 2 years. Those companies were all started pre-bust and at one point considered how many “eyeballs” they had a metric of success.


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