Can MySpace Stage A Comeback?

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There's an article today in the Wall Street Journal about the challenges facing social networking website MySpace. A modest goal, it seems, is to grow at all, much the less keep pace with its chief competitor Facebook. According to the article, it is trying to refocus its site by appealing to specific entertainment-driven audiences. Is that enough to stop the bleeding?

First, here's what I found most fascinating, and also really scary for MySpace:

myspace chart.gif

If that chart were to go back further, I think it would be even more dramatic. Most people I went to college with had Facebook accounts before MySpace, since I went to one of the earliest schools whose students and alumni were invited to Facebook. But MySpace soon became a much more popular site, and anyone could join. So lots of my other friends quickly signed up. Many of them, including myself, have since left the site, but remain active on Facebook. So what's going on?

I almost equate it with the Microsoft-Yahoo/Apple-Google disparity. Products from the former grouping generally gave its users more power over the interface and had an early mover advantage, so they dominated initially. But since then, consumers have shifted to prefer the simpler, more elegant interface in the Apple-Google style.

For example, one of the reasons I left MySpace was because I would receive entirely too many sketchy friend or band requests that did not interest me. A few times I clicked on pages and narrowly escaped getting infected with malware/viruses. Even though I had a lot more control over customizing my MySpace page, I began not to care. Some people's pages were also too customized -- it became annoying. I came to prefer Facebook's simplicity and functionality. I made a similar shift from Yahoo to Google, though I have not weaned myself off Yahoo services entirely, since its offerings are broader than Google's.

It's very hard to revive something like a social networking site, due to the inherent chain-reaction nature of people leaving and their friends following. So here's where MySpace is going, according to the WSJ:

In a strategy shift, MySpace is striving to become an online hangout for people to connect with friends over entertainment content, whether it's the new Pearl Jam album, blogs from celebrities like British pop singer Lily Allen or a karaoke contest for the Fox musical comedy "Glee."

It might work, but I'm not convinced. I think I'm more into music, film and broader pop culture than the average American, but even I have no desire to tangle with MySpace again despite a renewed emphasis -- I just don't feel it's worth my time. I can already go to fan sites, join Yahoo groups or even find Facebook fan pages. But maybe I'm no longer MySpace's target audience and just don't get it.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.
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