Can MySpace be Beaten?

31 Comments

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.

31 Comments

DJ Graham

actually although myspace may seem unstoppable other super sites such as youtube ,neopets, and sketch have huge amounts of members although people may think that one website will eventually take myspace on my theory is that other super sites will be atracking the eye of millions myspace, i doubt, will ever go away

shane johns

i dont think you understand my space cant be beating anyone who disagrees were be destroyed and determined to enjoy myspace why it is still available

blogger

My Space isn’t past the finish line yet..
if something similar comes that does not have log in problems and posting problems..
It will slowly replace MySpace.
So far I like the freedom there… tp personlaize my page and say what I like with privacy…
but it is not worth trading off reliability.
Some of my military firends were only contactable there recently and now their faith is ill repaired.. I cannot post the location for a reunion event in time for all to attend…

I can’t contact family (lucky we happen to have each other’s phone numbers)
and now to add injury.. my personal profile suddenly became full public!
My blog/journels was not for any but firends! lucky I don’t do anything too wild!

so for me?
MySpace sucks!

Rammer

The next generation of social networking is far beyond Myspace and Facebook. You will hear much more about this new generation of social networking in the near future, lead exclusively by Colonies.com.

Finn

we could just kill tom, i think myspace might get a bit bummed then

Chief

My Space does have some limitations. Flash animations ie. .swf files normally uploaded through code is not a supported function.
No flash animations can appear in a My Space blog post, comment or user profile.
Yet there are several Flash Groups in the My Space network where discussion and upload of flash .swf appear. The absence of Flash in profiles etc. is hotly discussed by disgruntled users in My Space Groups also. Blogs such as Blogger support flash .swf posts (and many others do too) but don’t have the many other functions of My Space – mp3’s, networking, messaging etc.

My Space has My Music, My Video, My Film but no My Animation or My WebToons for example. It is a glaring oversight that leaves the social networking market open to any one who can match My space functionalities combined with showcasing independant Flash works.

Ideal for Adobe/Macromedia to jump into social networking market?

arvind s grover

Working with young people, MySpace is completely a social circle that many teens in my school choose to participate in. There are all kinds of power dynamics being played out with how many friends you have, who they are, who is in your top 8, who has left you comments (and how many), and how many people have commented on your photos (i.e. how much attention are they getting).

For now, like any fad (read: Uggs, iPods, Sidekicks, etc), MySpace is a must have for those teens. There is no doubt that another site/service will grab their attention soon.

It has never been about the tool, but about the behavior that occur as a result.

More thoughts at http://www.21apples.org

Dheeraj

I think more specialized communities will spring up just like the specialized communities around message boards.

Robert Young

Thanks for the great comments. As much as I’d like to provide my perspective to each one, I’m going to hold off as I hope the second part of this post will answer most.

Jesse Kopelman

pwb, I agree with you but would take your statements a step further — time itself will beat MySpace. No one can stay on top forever. Why we have this idea of a perpetual corporation, I don’t know. It seems to me that every business, no matter how big, should have some sort of exit plan. You might last 100 days, you might last 100 years, but eventually you will be done.

pwb

I have no doubt that someone will eventually topple MySpace. Once the cool kids or your friends find the next, the better, the cooler or more likely, just the different service, you’ll move in an instant.

The viral strength is grossly over-stated.

However, it is *not* the players that set out to “beat MySpace” that will be successfull. It will be something out of left field, like YouTube.

Om Malik

eric, you make a good point. i think as we grow older, i.e. move up in the fruit food chain, we tend to be set in our ways and less likely to flit-from one place to another.

i think one of the best social network i have seen is that of facebook, which is evolving in terms of the people it represents. it has barriers to entry, and has some sort of a “velvet rope” concept going for it, and should do well as their demographic ages, leaves college etc.

lets see how it all plans out.

wireless

According to ComScrore, for the month of January MySpace had 36m unique visitors. This is the leading independent ratings angency – not News Corp numbers. This makes it the 8th largest site in the U.S. Friendster, at its peak I think was about 1m unique visitors. To say that teens are fickle because Friendster burned out is absurd, its network was 1/36th the size. And I don’t know why people think News Corp has a heavy hand, their reputation is to give tremendous autonomy to their divisions.

steve

tech_pundit, yes, i stand by my assertion: 9 out of 10 MySpace sign-ups should be discounted as duplicates or abandoned. This is true not just of MySpace, but of Yahoo, and YouTube and every other web service which brags about registered users. And I’d argue the proof is in these web services galring absence of standard, Direct Marketing “list hygiene” disclosure. Every magazine publisher, every direct mail list vendor, adhere to standards of third-party list auditing and publish — brag — about the results (otherwise no buyer would buy.) Nobody on the web does this because why should they? There’s no pressure from buyers. Just the opposite: they are rewarded in the media and in the financial markets for putting out the largest possible circulation numbers — unverified, unaudited, never deduplicated or scrubbed for bogus entries. It was a scandal in the 1990’s and its a scandal now.

Eric Mattson

“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);”

Om,

I wonder if sometimes the fruit higher on the tree is more defensible. Harder to pick but more valuable once you get it (e.g. resources of baby boomers vs. teenagers).

jbelkin

The short answer is yes – MySpace is the GeoCities of the 21st century. It’s ride is over just like GeoCities as soon as Yahoo bought it and started to impose “corporate/grown-up” rules. I’m not saying those rules are all wrong but MySpace’s appeal is that it was messy and unthethered to anything – News Corp – not exactly known for having a light hand in anything will actually kill MySpace faster than Yahoo with GeoCities but what does News Corp care – it buys them cred on WS as hip and it’s all a writeoff.

MySpace numbers? Frankly, you can’t count on those? How many page views are the OWNERS updating their own page or checking out their page to see if any new connections arrived – is that really a page view? And of course, if you log in from school, from home and from a friends – those are all “unique” visitors … again, not accurate.

And how many sign up to write YOU SUX to someone and then drop off?

MySpace had two things going for it – it was unregulated and it was free. So musicians jumped on board since tere weere not a lot of places that didn’t musicians listing their won music as mp3 or bandwidth thieves … and of course, it was under the radar so it was cool with kids.

Now, it has no cred.

tech_pundit

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.

moataz

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.

steve

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”.

secretdubai

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

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

Rajat Paharia

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.

kenny

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

David

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.

abhijit

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)

Ramana Kovi

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.

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