RIP Myspace – Part Deux

I love it when my predictions come true. It’s so infrequently that they do that I just have to take a moment and bask in the glow of my omniscience. Ha! Even the guy that lives under the rock in the Geico commercials could see this one coming. Back in September I wrote about Myspace’s last gasp effort to revamp itself with the website. At that time I predicted doom for the social networking site, primarily due to lack of leadership – including lots of departures – and being asleep at the wheel as Facebook steam-rolled over it. I would like to use the parable of the boiled frog to explain how Myspace let this happen, but I think they must have been well beyond simply being complacent and basking in the warmth of their early meteoric growth. Little did they know how quickly the water was about to boil…

Now the Wall Street Journal has written an article outlining Myspace’s latest set of woes – most strikingly, but not surprisingly, the continued run-off of revenues (see chart below). Advertisers are abandoning Myspace faster than you can say Jack Robinson. And who can blame them. Traffic to the site is down 44 percent in February, and those who still visit the site are spending 59% less time there than they did a year ago. So much for the heralded relaunch that occurred last October. NewsCorp did make a feeble attempt to spin Myspace into a media-focused social networking site (mostly music), but that too was not enough to save it.

There will be lots of business school case studies written about this one, and lots of arguments will occur as to what really went wrong with Myspace. Why was Facebook able to so quickly surpass Myspace in all social networking benchmarks? Control – short and sweet. Myspace was pretty much open and you could make your site look like, well, whatever. You never knew what you are going to encounter when you land on a Myspace page – at least in the old format. Most of it became just a jumble of unrelated junk pasted transparently on a whatever background the user picked. The ultimate end product was pretty much unusable.

Facebook on the other hand completely controls the user experience. While some may not like that much control, the result is that everybody gets a consistent user experience. It may be ugly, but it’s consistent. And probably the most important aspect is the notion of how communities are built and maintained.  While I never used Myspace, it appears (and I have been told many times) that the process of building networks was somewhat clumsy. Again, Facebook figured this out early-on. I won’t say that their solution is the best I could imagine, and I often get irritated with their “suggestions”, but it works.

Another conspiracy theory that has popped up is lack of scalability. It’s interesting to read some of the thoughts on this one. Heck, even Microsoft is being blamed for killing Myspace. I for one don’t buy into this theory. Scalability is critical, but I don’t think an architectural choice was the cause of Myspace’s performance problems. Those could have been overcome in several ways. I think Myspace was so focused on the October 2010 “relaunch” that they simply ignored (or by that time didn’t have the resources to respond to) the performance issues. When you read the summary of the comments in the article you can see there are many varied opinions on what actually went wrong down in LA, including acquisition and retention of talent.

Myspace is just another example of the fickle nature of the social networking beast. All too often people abandon the latest fad for the one that just rounded the corner.  But Facebook seems to have found the secret sauce that keeps people coming back for more. So even if Myspace’s relaunch had been truly innovative and unique, it’s unlikely that they could have recovered enough lost souls to keep them alive. If  Myspace comes back to life I’ll eat my hat as the old saying goes. But I think I’m pretty safe at this point in time.  Oh well, RIP Myspace, and on to the next great thing…


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