Not only have News International been forced to close Britains biggest selling Sunday newspaper , The News of the World, but they have sold MySpace for a massive loss with MySpace now seeing a rosier future outside of Rupert Murdoch’s control.
News International has not only been dealing with the fallout from this week’s phone hacking scandal but has also announced the sale of the once mighty MySpace for a measly $35million. Bear in mind that back in 2005 News International paid $580million for the social media giant and have now sold it for around 6% of the original purchase price.
MySpace, once the worlds’ number one social media site, has seen an astonishing decline in the past 6 years. Back when News international paid $580million it had 300million active users and the world was only just on the cusp of the social media revolution. Now MySpace has 90million users, many dormant, and this figure has been in decline for years.
The reason for this is not just the rise of Facebook and Twitter but a lack of innovation within MySpace after the takeover by News International. Facebook sought to make their site as simple to use as possible to increase signups and made social contact the very essence of the site to keep people engaged.
MySpace unquestionably allowed its users to personalise their pages more than Facebook, however in the long term this can be seen as a mistake as pages became slow to load, cluttered and engagement with other users was not placed at the heart of the site.
The uniformity of Facebook was not a handicap but a positive as all users had to do to set up a page was add a few personal details, a picture and simply find a few friends on the network. MySpace on the other hand was populated by hardcore users with highly developed individual pages which seemed to put off the casual browser from joining up. Once a newer, easier to use Social Network appeared MySpace simply faded into the background.
There was little in the way of innovation from News International, they pulled a few strings from their movie subsidiary companies to place references in films such as Iron Man and most notably Kick-Ass however nothing in the way of true innovation that would attract users, the lifeblood of any social network.
In essence News International never understood the medium they had bought into and were out manoeuvred by a smaller company that was able to revolutionise social media.
However now MySpace has been freed from its corporate straightjacket it has signalled its intent to fight back and seems to have made a smart move by signing up singer/dancer/actor/all round good guy Justin Timberlake as a partner.
MySpace was initially conceived as a way for bands, musicians, performers and artists to communicate with each other and their fans and it seems as though bringing onboard Justin Timberlake they are going back to their roots. They could hardly have picked a better figurehead as Justin Timberlake has an immense international, cross-generational and cross genre appeal.
Could this be the first move in the renaissance of MySpace? If it is News International could end up with even more egg on their face for selling the company for $35million to go with the half a billion loss on their balance sheet, the loss of the Britain’s biggest selling Sunday newspaper and a hurricane of truly awful publicity to cap a nightmare week for Rupert Murdoch.