The former chief executive of MySpace has spoken for the first time about the demise of the once-dominant social network, admitting that News Corporation should have relaunched the site as “an entirely new brand”.
In a comment piece for the CNN Money website, Mike Jones said that Myspace faced “a variety of organisational challenges” under parent company News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS) but said it was ultimately held back by failures of marketing. Jones stepped down as the chief executive of Myspace after two years in August, following its $35 million acquisition by a group of investors including Justin Timberlake.
Rupert Murdoch, News Corp chairman and chief executive, gave his frankest assessment yet of the Myspace debacle at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Los Angeles on Friday. He admitted making a “huge mistake” by not selling the social network for $6bn shortly after News Corp paid $580m for it in 2005.
“We then proceeded to mismanage it in every possible way and all of the people concerned with it are no longer with the company,” he told shareholders.
Jones said that it was a “mistake” to keep the MySpace brand after it was repositioned as a social entertainment hub in October last year.
“We found that regardless of how much we improved the product or the marketing message consumers’ memories about the brand were too strong to allow them to view MySpace with fresh eyes and an open mind,” he added. “We could not escape their images of animated GIFs.”
Jones said that a bigger marketing budget might have changed perceptions of MySpace, which lost its position as the leading social network to Facebook shortly after News Corp’s purchase and never recovered. But he also pointed out that brand campaigns at other internet giants such as Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) had failed.
“I don’t think a large consumer campaign would have significantly changed the outcome for MySpace,” he said. “In the end, I believe MySpace would have had a better chance for success if we had relaunched it as an entirely new brand.”
Jones said that MySpace also struggled because, unlike Facebook, it did not have a product that enticed users to visit the site every day. He suggested that MySpace should have required users to sign up with their real-life name, as Facebook does.
The former AOL (NYSE: AOL) executive also suggested that cutting huge swathes of staff did not deliver the results that News Corp had wanted. He described how “even significant staff changes often do not result in the desired increase in efficiency”.
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.