Interview: Chris DeWolfe, Co-Founder and CEO, MySpace


Last Friday evening in Monaco, I spoke to Chris DeWolfe, the founder and CEO of MySpace, part of News Corp (NYSE: NWS). on a slew of issues. A very-jetlagged DeWolfe gamely tried to answer some of my questions at the hotel restaurant, over constant interruptions by some adoring fans of his. We talked about OpenSocial, the changing culture at MySpace, competition with Facebook, and international expansion.

Below are some excerpts from my conversation with him:
On the OpenSocial platform, which MySpace is a part of, along with Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and many others: I hope some day everyone will be on the open standards. Any social application that is built shouldn’t have to be built over and over again. Most for the social app developers are part of very small companies, 5 or 6 people maybe, and their time is better spent making news products, as opposed to rebuilding existing ones. Even with thousands of engineers, we won’t be able to build the best applications…those would come from the entrepreneurs who are invested heavily in each of their apps. More in extended entry…

Any cannibalization fears with OpenSocial? You can’t control the users moving from one site to the other. Media companies tried to control their content, and users voted with their behavior.

MySpace Platform: Will launch in the next 45 days or so.

SF office: San Francisco office is important, and we literally have a product line that is two years out, and we will try to compress it as much as possible. We think there are tons of talented engineers in San Francisco that may not want to commute to the Valley, so we are trying to find a niche for ourselves.

Slowing on growth for MySpace: You can’t expect that torrid growth to continue always. Our goal has always been to be the biggest site in the world…we may never get there, but we’ve always had big goals. We’re feeling pretty good about where we are. We will soon open in 10 more countries, including Korea, Russia and India.

China: We opened in China about six months ago, as a completely separate company, with a separate team of about 70 people, and our servers hosted there. Monetization in a country like Chin will be slow, the the online ad market is not there yet.
International: In all the territories, there are big local competitors that we have to think about. You have to consider Facebook as a competitor here, just as you have to consider Mixi as a competitor in Japan. You have to consider as a competitor in China.

Monetization: We are taking our hypertargeting, and taking it down to 1,000 buckets. Right now it is 100, and will expand later. That is a big development, and I think we are best positioned to do it because we have massive data, and massive reach. The other thing we did was the self-serve display ad platform that we launched. If you are a drycleaners in Santa Monica, you can spend say $50, create your own banners, and target it to users within 5 miles. The zip code that users put in are 99 percent accurate, from our research.

MySpace Video and MySpaceTV: Easily, it is the second largest video site. We probably gave more professionally licensed video content than anyone out there. We are also producing our own content, but that’s still early. Not a big revenue earner for us, yet.

The writers’ strike: I am certainly not an expert in that, but I think it is bad for everyone. It could cripple the economy in Los Angeles.

Corporate culture as MySpace grew big: In general, keeping corporate culture as what it was in the beginning is always difficult. It has changed, and it has to change as we got bigger. You have more layers within your organization, and in order to facilitate communication, you have to create somewhat of a bureaucracy, but we are trying to keep it as flat as possible.

The noise and reality about competition with Facebook: There is a huge overlap in the products right now, but Facebook isn’t the only other social network out there. But Facebook is somewhat of a is great place to find that person in your college dorm or fraternity, or high school. MySpace is a great place for self expression, to discover content, discover culture, communicate with your friends and discover new friends.

MySpace 2.0: One of the projects we are working on, where your profile page will become your address on the Internet. it can also be your business address, your party friends address, your family address, such that you only have one profile, but depending on how you categorize your friends, you can show a different profile. What that does is expand the demographic.
Also, we are working on homepage as your starting point on the Internet (a bit like MyYahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) or Netvibes). So whether it is your MySpace activity feed, or your Gmail, or your weather widget…you will be able to bring it onto your MySpace homepage through drag and drop.

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