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MySpace Second Act Recasts Entertainment In Starring Role

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Forgive yourself if you forget about your friends on the new version of MySpace: entertainment is your new BFF on News Corp.’s update of the struggling social network, which was unveiled Tuesday at midnight PT.

Billed for its long-awaited rebirth as a “social entertainment destination,” MySpace is looking to differentiate itself from younger Internet giants like Facebook and Twitter by leveraging familiar faces from movies, music, TV and gaming. A redesign heavy with celebrity photos plays down friendship in favor of uniting users around common pop-culture interests, as well as discovering new ones. Which isn’t to say MySpace’s competitors are completely out of the picture; the emphasis on real-time sharing of videos and music brings to mind Facebook and Twitter’s own hyperactive streams.

Even another Internet phenomenon, Foursquare, comes to mind in the form of a new badge-reward system MySpace has put into place, one of a slew of new products that will slowly be rolled out across the site’s 125-million user footprint worldwide in the coming months (new users will get the beta site). There’s also topic pages and “content hubs” dedicated to curating content on everything from P. Diddy to Halo: Reach. There’s even a special dashboard available to “curators,” MySpace’s fancy-ism for a breed of users it will look to set trends and influence culture on the site.

And what relaunch would be complete without a new logo? Though it would seem impossible to top the avant-garde shapeshifting AOL (NYSE: AOL) employed with its own rebranding last year, MySpace manages to take it to the next level. At first glance of the new logo, the word ‘Space’ is actually blank, leaving just an empty bracket. But when users scroll over that logo, it will trigger an animation (see video for some examples below).

Innovative? Sure. But is it too old-fashioned to ask major Internet brands to stick to one static image? If this is the beginning of a trend, who knows what kind of branding chaos awaits us.

Knock MySpace all you’d like for making a last-ditch effort, but at least there’s some logic underlying its repositioning. Embracing entertainment makes sense considering the site’s origins as a home for musicians and comedians to make a name for themselves.

Then there’s also MySpace’s ties to News Corp., which could put it an enviable position to capitalize on relationships with big-time entertainment assets belonging to Fox or 20th Century Fox. If Rupert Murdoch is serious about reviving MySpace, he should be pushing all his divisions to give over exclusive content add-ons from its franchises. It’s still a great marketing platform, and would really help differentiate MySpace as more than just an aggregator of commoditized content.

What remains to be seen is how the new MySpace will render on wireless devices; a browser-agnostic version of the beta site is expected soon, followed by iPhone and Android apps by the end of the year. That may seem like an afterthought given all the attention paid to the website, but mobile may be just the place for MySpace to deliver the kind of game-changer that may be too little too late on PCs.

That’s the sad truth of the new MySpace (NSDQ: NWS). Even if the execution is brilliant, time may have already passed it by. As hail mary passes go, this one is a nice toss, but a hail mary nonetheless.

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