He’s only been on the job for two weeks, but MySpace’s new CEO Owen Van Natta is already getting plenty of suggestions for how to “fix” the social network. Sure, MySpace has been generating revenue for longer than some of its rivals. But it is falling out of favor with both users and potential business partners: For example, MTV’s upcoming social media-centric show will include Facebook and Twitter updates—but no MySpace interaction—and the New York Times reports that unique visits to MySpace dropped by 5 million from the end of January to the end of March.
So what should Van Natta and his new team do to turn that around? One thought is that MySpace needs to embrace the fact that its user base skews much younger than some of its rivals, and cater to them. The social network has been criticized in the past for having gaudy profiles, but the freedom to add the wallpaper, icons and decoration of their choosing has been a major draw for teens. And advertisers still want to target these younger users, even though they have less disposable income: “We often consider [MySpace] when we have a product targeting that age range,” Meridee Alter, an SVP at ad agency RPA, told the New York Times.
Instead of trying to broaden its focus by positioning itself as local business resource, a webmail provider, or even a hub for citizen journalism, MySpace might be better served by sticking to teen-friendly content development (like the new show, BFF), and trying to grow MySpace Music into the “go to” place for the younger set to find hot new artists. (Sort of like what MTV used to be).
Last, but not least, MySpace needs to work on its openness. The benefits of self-expression and tons of fresh content only go so far when most of that content is restricted to members only. The social net made progress with recent updates to its MySpaceID platform, but making it easier for other sites to show off its members’ blog posts, comments and even playlists, could help prove to other teens (and advertisers) that the MySpace community is still thriving.
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