Bringing MySpace back


source: Spencer E. Holtaway (labeled for reuse)

In June 2011, a highly publicized comeback story hit the media when the singer, dancer, actor, and comedian Justin Timberlake decided to take on a new, entrepreneurial role. Channeling his character Sean Parker in The Social Network, the artist decided to purchase MySpace with Specific Media Group, at a cost of 35 million dollars.

This was a rather surprising move for, prior to the purchase, MySpace’s popularity had been steeply declining since the launch of Facebook. While in June 2009 the company was reported to have 1,600 workers, by May 2011, the company had downsized to a mere 200 employees.

Much like the fashion industry, social media and networking sites are subject to trends. Supermodel Heidi Klum’s famous saying “one day you’re in, the next day you’re out” was exactly what happened to MySpace. From 2005 to 2008, it was one of the most popular sites in the world, even surpassing Google on the list of most-visited sites in 2006. But then something went horribly wrong, as an increasing number of MySpace profiles were abandoned by users. Specific Media owner and one of the new owners of MySpace, Chris Vanderhook, summed up its decline: “Everyone had a lot of fun on MySpace at one point […] It’s easy to kick it and say, oh, yeah, MySpace sucks now, but everyone had fun on MySpace before. It’s just that they didn’t keep pace with technology and they didn’t keep up with the times.”

In that same interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Vanderhook even goes so far as to say that MySpace’s demise came from the leadership’s mismanagement in “trying to compete with Facebook.” He explained that the plan for MySpace’s comeback would be to return to its roots, refocusing on the music industry. This is where Justin Timberlake came in; he was able to offer his expertise from years of working in the music industry to the rest of the MySpace staff. The goal of the new MySpace, as stated by the Vanderhook, was to provide a way for up-and-coming artists to gain recognition and a fan base (almost like an online talent show, where the users are the judges). The site also aims to be a place where established artists along the likes of Mac Miller and Timberlake–who has scouted talent on YouTube before and has his own record label–might be able to bring the publicity MySpace needs. He has already influenced the company president to hire people with a name in the music industry including artist Kenna Zemedkun, who has been speaking with other renowned artists like Drake and Kid Cudi to get them to join MySpace’s campaign.

Last June, MySpace re-launched to an estimated 25 million users in the United States and abroad. Pre-existing profiles and data had been deleted, so old users interested in returning to MySpace were automatically redirected to a new account. The new website seems to already be a hit with users in everything from site design to music sharing. In terms of distinguishing itself from Facebook, a profile on MySpace allows you to pick a “profile song” which plays when someone visits your profile. Similarly to its older version. it also allows users to select their “Top 8” friends. Other pros listed by users include the expansive library of free music. MySpace users do not have an official wall, and instead post their statuses to their stream, which includes updates from all of their friends’ streams.

On the down side, while music sharing is made available this way, some users complained that this streaming system became annoying as, in addition to mixes made by friends, the stream also shows updates every time they listen to a song. While users can eliminate any updates in their streams, many complained that this feature was time consuming, and suggested an easier way to filter musicians. Along with this, many have stated that the new MySpace is confusing, cluttering too much information that users do not want to see on the stream, while not giving enough options to update user information. Some people even have complained about the new site, claiming that it was just a way for Justin Timberlake to promote himself through the Internet.

Despite these negative reviews, many agree that the concept of the new MySpace is something unique to most other social networks that exist. In fact, most have stated that the new MySpace is more comparable to Spotify or Pandora than Facebook or Twitter. In terms of music sharing, most artists have agreed that MySpace is more accessible, though it still lacks more active users. While it is too early to tell if MySpace will make its big comeback, the network has already reported some small signs of growth, with an increase from 24 million to 36 million active users.