MySpace, R.I.P

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It’s not a good idea to speak ill of the dead. It is OK, however, to speak the truth, however harsh it might seem, about the living dead.

Rupert Murdoch’s $580 million MySpace purchase has outlived not only its utility, but has also finally hit its expiration date. That last step came with the announcement this afternoon that Owen Van Natta was stepping down as chief executive of the company.  This was nine months after he joined the Los Angeles-based venture. It’s circling the drains, if you ask me.

Is anyone surprised that Van Natta left? I’m not. Rupert Murdoch had put him in charge. Then Jon Miller, the head of News Corp.’s digital operations, brought in two more guys -– Mike Jones and Jason Hirschhorn. I think you can read between the lines here. You have three guys with a strong emphasis on operations –- sort of like three short-stops on the same baseball team.

When the trio came together, I asked the question, Can Internet’s Free Agents Save MySpace? My take was simple:

News Corp is counting on the equivalent of three Internet free agents to replace Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson and revive MySpace, the big but not so bountiful social network. The three free agents are CEO Owen Van Natta (former COO of Facebook), COO Mike Jones (founder and CEO of Userplane) and Chief Product Officer Jason Hirschhorn (former president of SlingMedia.) These three men are certainly capable, but they are on a mission impossible. I think MySpace Music is a nice niche opportunity — how big of one remains to be seen. For the three free agents — good luck guys! You are really going to need it.

From what I gather, there were conflicts between Van Natta and his boss, Miller. It was clear that someone had to go and it wasn’t going to be Miller, mostly because Murdoch wasn’t around to save Van Natta. This kind of corporate infighting is a sign of a bigger malaise. In many ways, News Corp and Murdoch have lost any and all interest in the web. The fire sales of Photobucket and Rotten Tomatoes are clear indicators that any and every digital property is up for sale. I bet if you showed up with a decent offer for, say, IGN or MySpace, News Corp would be willing to make a deal.

I don’t blame them. With “Avatar” bringing in more revenues than all their digital properties put together, COO Chase Carey, I am told, doesn’t care much for these headache businesses. News Corp’s other businesses, such as its cable networks, are making a decent amount of money as well. The web doesn’t hold much attraction for Rupert Murdoch, who is now enamored with e-readers and tablets.

Tablets, according to those in the know, are being viewed as saviors for News Corp.’s core business: news and information. He thinks that since devices are not that useful without his content, he eventually wins because he will get people to win pay for his content. “Content is not just king, it is the emperor of all things electronic!” he recently said. But as our Kevin Kelleher essentially summed up in discussing Murdoch and News Corp’s business strategy in this post over the weekend, “Murdoch is right that those devices are lifeless without content, but he neglects to mention that it’s a symbiotic relationship.”

Kevin also noted that Murdoch, and every large media company, need to think like startups. Unfortunately that is no longer in the DNA that defines Murdoch. If he thought like a startup, instead of hiring three managers, the company would have hired a strong chief technology officer, who had the vision and the guts to essentially take the living corpse of a social network and send a shock through its system. They needed someone who could think of and build a Spotify based on MySpace Music!

What the company needed was radical transformation. But what it got was infighting, politicking and constant contraction.  At the time Van Natta, Jones and Hirschhorn joined the company it had two things going for it -– the audience and the social graph. There was a time when celebrities used MySpace to stay in touch with their fans. Now they’re all using Twitter.

The audience has started to fritter away, moving to better, more current social environments such as Facebook and Twitter. As for the social graph, I wonder if MySpace really had one. I wouldn’t be surprised if more executives, including those from recently acquired startups such as imeem and iLike, left for greener and more viable pastures.

As my friend Pip Coburn has told me many times, turnarounds never really turn. They usually run aground. Time for Myspace N.O!

* Photo of Rupert Murdoch courtesy of World Economic Forum via Flickr.

* Photo of Owen Van Natta by JD Lassica via Flickr


89 Comments

max

myspace is dead from what i see. they deleted everyone account and password savers when they made the new layout so now people have a hard time logging in and the pages wont load becouse they got so much junk trying to load and the new layout is just stupid stupid. i hope they die. someone get a bullet and yeller down

Sonia

Me gusta mucho myspace, no creo que sea una buena idea que este site copie estilo de facebook o de alguna otra pagina social, lo que si pueden hacer es abrir un nuevo cuato donde halla un juego “my space friends hacen un request donde esperan por aceptacion del amigo solicitado, So, se puede cambiar el request, “el juego consiste en que hay una puerta, un amigo toca, se pone musica la musica que la persona escoja, para recibir amigos, no se puede recibir amigos si no tienen fotos, y la persona tiene que hablar y presentarse, proveer infomacion basica que le permita entrar a tu pagina, y despues es permitido entrar, cada vez que decees hablar con un amigo toca a su propia puerta en su site, depende de el si quiere ensenar su imagen o hablar, se puede enviar regalos fotos intercambiar musica, numeros de cell,, y todo lo que permita el juego, por supuesto hay reglas, y decrechos y proteccion en ambos angulos…es solo una idea….Sonia,speak spanish as well…myspaceladyblak(Sonya Ramos

Dynamo Hom

Myspace became very cluttered very quickly, and people created browser crashing sites by using layout managers from 3rd parties that no one was ready for (and the implanted bugs and viruses from the more malicious ones). Bands and commercial properities would flood my bulletin boards and posts and the all-or-nothing privacy settings were killing the usefulness of even friending someone.

Facebook seems to be a very good way to control and collect information on friends and colleagues, while twitter is a great way to keep up with commerce and entertainment and news. I found personally that this divide was a reason to abandon myspace. Obviously some people FB everything, and some people love twitter. I enjoy the separation, but I think that’s a great think to keep in mind about the scaling of social media. It does break down at large scales, so separating it is the best thing going for FB and twitter.

Too bad myspace didn’t get on the ball earlier. There are a lot of unsigned bands who created an excellent page on myspace with music, downloads and shows that I’ve yet to see replicated as well on facebook or twitter.

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