Can MySpace be Beaten?

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.

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