New MySpace chiefs plan major relaunch
In their first interview since the shock departure of Owen Van Natta, MySpace’s former chief executive, Mike Jones and Jason Hirschorn, the company’s new co-presidents, say they will be ready to "win back old users" by the end of this year.
While both executives refused to be drawn on the reasons surrounding Mr Van Natta’s sudden exit, they admitted that they would “now be innovating at an accelerated pace”. It was felt that Mr Van Natta had failed to develop and implement new services quick enough, according to a senior digital source close to the company who spoke to The Telegraph at the time.
“We have not changed strategy dramatically, as we were both key leaders in developing the company’s vision with Owen. Now we want to move on those ideas at a pace never seen before. We have a more refined focus on content and social discovery and are accelerating the product development around that vision,” Mr Hirschorn said.
Over the next few months, the two chiefs will oversee the gradual roll out of several new products and tools across the social network – which has been losing users to rival sites such as Facebook and Twitter over at a fast pace over the last two years.
Some of the most recent Nielsen figures speak for themselves – in the UK in January 2010, MySpace had 3.9 million unique users compared to the mighty 23.9 unique users visiting Facebook during the same month. Even in the US where MySpace has always been historically bigger, 51.6 million unique users visited MySpace last month – versus a whopping 116.3 million using Facebook.
Mr Hirschorn explained the difference between MySpace and Facebook as: “MySpace is a not place for people to talk about what they are up to. It’s the place people talk about what they are into.”
As part of this increased focus around content discovery and sharing, MySpace will be rolling out a recommendation engine which will suggest games, music and videos to users based on their previous consumption habits. This has already gone live for new users, but will be fully rolled out to those with existing MySpace accounts over the next two months.
There will also be a revamp of all users’ profiles, starting next month with all music artists with a MySpace presence. According to Mr Jones this will improve the video and audio capabilities of profiles, creating more of a “next generation environment”. It will also offer artists more opportunities to use their profiles to set up things like competitions for fans. MySpace is working with the music industry at the moment about how to best develop its services for artists. Regular MySpace users will then have these opportunities extended to them and their profiles. There will be automations tools to help people migrate their old profiles over with greater ease.
The ‘dashboard’ tool, which was made available to musicians last year, is to be extended to regular users at an unconfirmed point during the summer. This free tool currently allows all artists and labels unlimited access to charts, graphs and snapshots of MySpace music data relating to the profiles and regularity of their listeners.
The artists’ dashboard data shows musicians where their fans come from, which songs are being played the most, profile views, friend count and the number profile visitors. Trending data are available for seven day and 30 day glances and there is also heat map showing usership.
The user dashboard will let people know how many times their link to a video or song, has been re-shared and how their presence on the site is doing generally. This will then lead to users being awarded ‘points’ or ‘reputation badges’ depending on their levels of influence on the site. Mr Hirschorn said that people not only want to connect when using a network but they also enjoy getting credit for sharing or curating information.
The co-presidents are prioritising social games as part of the revamp and hope to make it as popular as music has been as a genre across the site. Presently they say 20 per cent of their users are “connecting with games” on a daily basis and they want that to be up to 50 per cent in the near future. Today at Games Developers Conference in San Francisco – MySpace executives are announcing a few new social games which are exclusive to MySpace and are releasing several APIs which will allow third party developers to create games for MySpace. They will also be releasing a mobile micro application for MySpace gamers across a number of platforms which will allow people to receive games alerts.
Mr Jones also discussed MySpace’s mobile plans: “Mobile is our largest growth segment. We are aiming to release 20 to 30 micro apps in the next year, across the major phone platforms [Android, iPhone, BlackBerry] which will each offer small parts of the MySpace functionality.
“By also making certain APIs available, third party developers can use certain parts of our content to create very specific apps.”
Both presidents are focussed on making sure MySpace’s ‘recovery’ is product-led but have deliberately staggered the changes because they say their userbase is very sensitive to change.
When asked about how they plan on going about the difficult task of re-capturing lost users who have left MySpace for the likes of Facebook, Mr Hirschorn said: “We still have 100 million users worldwide and at the moment our focus is on making the MySpace experience good for them and then once we have stabilised that userbase – we will go out and win back the users which have left.”
Mr Jones added: “We are impatient to bang the drum for MySpace, but want to wait for the product to be up to speed. We are aiming to go on a huge marketing push by the latter portion of this year.
“I am confident we will be able to win users back and attract brand new ones because of the nature of the internet. Usage patterns change very quickly and I have no doubt that when we want to turn on the viral effect back on – we can do so very quickly and with great effect. And secondly, when we are ready for our comeback, because we are owned by News Corp, we will have a very loud voice shouting about us around the world.”