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Rory Cellan-Jones

Has MySpace lost its cool?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 19 Feb 09, 11:29 GMT

I'm not entirely sure that Chis DeWolfe enjoyed our encounter at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The affable American, co-founder and chief executive of MySpace, was jet-lagged, having stepped off a flight from Los Angeles that morning into a punishing schedule of interviews and the launch of a new mobile offering. Then I arrived to interview him for radio - and to point a video camera at him for this blog:

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I spent half an hour suggesting that MySpace just wasn't cool any more. To his credit, he didn't lose his cool - just kept on insisting I was wrong to suggest that he'd been left standing by Facebook.

There are all sorts of ways of comparing the audiences of social networking sites. I quoted Nielsen figures, showing that Facebook's global users now numbered 110 million, compared with the 83 million using MySpace. Chris DeWolfe punched back with figures showing MySpace had 76 million US users and 135 million worldwide, but the number he was really keen on was one from Comscore showing the average MySpace user in the US spent 266 minutes on the site each month, around 100 minutes more than Facebook users. But whatever you think of Nielsen or Comscore the trend seems clear - Facebook has been gaining on MySpace, particularly outside the US, and looks to be the social network with momentum behind it.

Ah, but here's the key difference, according to Mr De Wolfe - MySpace makes money. Good point. From the start, the site was focussed on profits and once it joined Rupert Murdoch's News Corp stable, telling the boss it was all about eyeballs, not the bottom line, was never going to wash. So MySpace's CEO says it has been profitable throughout its history - and he reckons it is the only social network making money. In its most recent results, however, News Corp reported a drop in revenues from the division which includes MySpace, blaming it partly on the cost of launching the social network's new music offering.

Like almost every Web 2.0 company, MySpace depends almost entirely on advertising for revenues and, whatever anyone said a few months ago, online advertising isn't recession-proof. "It's certainly got softer" was how Chris DeWolfe described the advert market, but maintained that his business was holding up better than others.

Fashion, however, is everything in this area. The first social network to take off in the UK was Friends Reunited, which ITV bought for £120 million in 2005, when it was already going out of fashion, and is now apparently trying to offload for a lot less. I'm too old to tell whether MySpace has lost the cool factor but a teenager of my acquaintance was pretty forthright in his verdict: "It's dead. Nobody I know uses it any more."

But at least it discovered a business model before the bad times came - unlike some networks that are seeing tremendous growth in traffic but have precious little revenue to show for it. As Chris DeWolfe said, gathering himself for a punchy soundbite at the end of our radio interview: "Time will tell whether they can figure out how to make money - we have."

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Although both MySpace and FaceBook are bot included under the 'Social Networking' umbrella, they having essential differences aside from who is making money and who isn't.

    MySpace has established itself as a place for music, both new and popular. This is where artists and bands come to promote themselves and network with like minded people. It is also where music fans come to listen to bands and find out what else is out there as well as finding gig dates and read blogs about their favourites.

    Facebook is more about connecting friends, allowing them to share photos, videos, stories and messages in a much more user friendly way than MySpace has ever done. Although there is some music/fan offerings, it hasn't lived up to the way MySpace does it.

    Both websites have a place and you can hardly turn your nose up at 83 million users, even if your competitor has 110 million.

  • Comment number 2.

    Rory, the professional BBC camera crews don't need to fear being replaced by you with your video camera...

  • Comment number 3.

    I wouldn't know whether it's "cool" or not but one certainly in one respect myspace remains a very valuable tool, namely if you are a musician or in a band. It's very handy for hooking up with other musicians, arranging gigs, etc, and keeping people updated with what you/your band is up to.

  • Comment number 4.

    MySpace is not something I have ever used (preferring the likes of Facebook) but I am aware of alot of bands that are still actively using it. We recently interviews Kovak (a Brighton band) for our own blog and they stated that

    "MySpace has made a huge impact. We’ve always had our own website, but being able to find new friends so easily through MySpace (and them find us!) has been a massive advantage towards getting our music heard. The interaction too makes all the difference – it’s great to have a personal relationship with fans and other onlookers. Also, it gives a clearer idea to the industry out there of what we’re about and what we’re up to."

    So I guess some people do still use it ;-)

  • Comment number 5.

    I use FaceBook, but it IS full of silly bells and whistles that become increasingly irritating. More to the point, the recent issue over 'ownership' of content has annoyed many FaceBook members. I, for one, have removed all my photos and much of my content and will be migrating it to my MySpace site. Also MySpace is MUCH better for music than FaceBook.

    Given the choice, I'd take MySpace over FaceBook anytime.

  • Comment number 6.

    I've long preferred MySpace to Facebook, maybe it's my age, but I like being able to read my friends blogs and get a bit more detail on what's happening with them than Facebook allows. Plus personalising the page and other features. Facebook drives me mad with it's constant barrage of requests, to be a pirate, poke someone, tickle someone, stick my tongue out at someone etc. And requests to define my friends? Just makes them seem needy! While facebook may be fashionable, I find Myspace (and now Twitter) to be far more useful in actually maintaining friendships. Facebook might be cooler, but it always strikes me as being about the quantity of friends where MySpace I can engage with them more.
    But then I am mostly uncool and behind the times!

  • Comment number 7.

    The main reason - I believe - why people use Facebook is because MySpace was a horrifically designed nightmare of a site.

    Not only did it look terrible (no offence, but the amount of money it must have made, they could have designed it a little better) it didn't particularly gear itself towards social networking so much as having neon pink flashing backgrounds with fifteen million images on people's profiles.

    Facebook sticks to a different philosophy, connecting you to the people you know - not producing flashy profile pages.

    Not to mention that Facebook was made by someone who genuinely wanted to make an excellent social networking app, not some big company looking for easy advertising profit.

  • Comment number 8.

    "It's dead. Nobody I know uses it any more."

    That is exactly the way I would describe it. Absolutely nobody I know actually uses it, with only musicians and singers perceived to actually have anything to do with Myspace. I think that Myspace's only real user base is in the US now, elsewhere Facebook has overtaken it.

  • Comment number 9.

    I haven't used MySpace for months as I just got sick of the pretense on there. I'm starting to get bored of Facebook as well as Twitter takes up most of my time.

    Facebook is unrivalled for sharing photos and videos, I will continue using it for that. It's also a free way to keep in touch with some global friends. MySpace has never really offered this but I agree with other comments, it is very useful for up and coming musicians to get their material heard.

  • Comment number 10.

    There's a difference between cool and in-use, isn't there? As phone tariffs drop and the cool crowd move on to Twitter and back to ordinary txt, there's space for others with more established networks to use MySpace/Facebook/Ning for agreed ends be they social or professional. I now plenty of people who use one network for work and one for fun but there's no consistency - it depends on which one they joined when and the group they set up within that at the time. MySpace does, however, seem more American - and the name does not really fit the new caring-sharing zeitgeist.

  • Comment number 11.

    I toally agree with your acquaintance Rory!

    A few years ago Myspace was on top, but moving to University it's almost a requirment to own a Facebook account and is an integral part of student life.

    Myspace is seen as 'for kids' who like to play around with their HTML (horribly) coloured backgrounds, where as Facebook maintains the 'cool' factor by being more mature.

    The awful flood of applications threatened to ruin Facebooks grown-up image although this I think has been recognised with a new-ish layout which pretty much hides the applications for those that want to play.

  • Comment number 12.

    Why did you try to bait him?

    Anyone with half a brain knows that the sites are nothing like each other anymore, they cater to different markets for differetn reasons.

    Facebook has become a proper community tool, a real social networking site where you choose who to share yourself with. It is a very personal thing.

    Myspace is more a collection of pre-styles home pages with inter-referrals. It is open to anyone by default to see you, hence it is great as a marketing tool.

    They are no longer in competition with one another in the true sense for members so comparisons are useless. It would be like comparing sales of a self help book to that of an action dvd.

  • Comment number 13.

    I do not think MySpace has lost it's cool - but conversely, it isn't anywhere near cutting edge. The relevance for musicians is still great and I have blogged about it here http://andyderrick.co.uk/2009/02/19/myspace-losing-its-cool/

  • Comment number 14.

    Facebook drives me mad with it's constant barrage of requests, to be a pirate, poke someone, tickle someone, stick my tongue out at someone etc.

    -------------

    You do realise that those requests are not generated by facebook but by your moronic friends right?

    Funnily enough I get very little bother from the bells, whistles and requests. I only get a few notices of this sort from close friends who know what I do and dont like. My other acquaintances do not ask me to take a quiz to find out what kind of hamster I am or poke me randomly or ask me to become part of teir pirate crew becaause those who do more than once (i ask them to stop the first time) get removed.

  • Comment number 15.

    It is interesting, and probably quite symptomatic of society's (or the media's) total selling out to social networking, that on the same day that a prominent biologists expresses concerns that computer social networking may be harming health, society and everything else that is vital for human beings, that all you can come up with is "Has Myspace lost its cool"

    Personally, if all computer social networking poofed over night I think we would be a lot better off for it.

  • Comment number 16.

    They are both just network apps. People jump from one to the other in the same way they dump mobile phones. Only folks who get excited are marketing folks and the founders keen to maintain their "buyout" bonanza.

    And as for BBC reporters being soundboards for what's cool...


    Yes, ok.

  • Comment number 17.

    Myspace has lost it's cool amongst those who are only trying to keep in contact with friends.

    However it is still the best choice for musicians and bands to keep in contact with fans.

    Facebook, is better suited for keeping in contact with friends, swapping photos and news. From a musician / business point of view it isn't the best marketing site out there.

  • Comment number 18.

    MySpace may be losing ground on the likes of Twitter and Facebook, but the issue of profitability - particularly in the current climate - is a valid one to make. Balancing cool with hard cash is an interesting conundrum. I've written a blog post on it here: http://www.peppermintpr.com/peppermintpost/2009/02/20/balancing-cool-with-hard-cash/

  • Comment number 19.

    Facebook bells and whistles... = ignore all invites from this muppet. I have no apps at all installed apart from the standard ones that came with facebook. Ive been on it for around 2.5 years now, i have a modest amount of 'friends' all put in their own little pot i.e. school, work etc. The thing thats grabbed me the most about FB is the status new reel updates, addictive to say the least, that said io probably spend no more than 20mins a day on it ( and the chat client really sucks)

    MySpace... was proabably cool and maybe still is, i have account but never really got on with it.. too old i suppose.

    friends reunited should be the king of these, been around for years and years.. must be like missing out of the beatles!!

    right going to check this twitter thing out.

    nice blog

 

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