Can Jon Miller and Owen Van Natta save MySpace by cutting 30 percent of its workforce? Probably not; MySpace is toast.
How do I know? Well, I don’t know, but I can guess based on the reaction to a question I posed about MySpace to my Media Management and Leadership graduate class last week. All of the students in the class but one are in their 20s and all are savvy Internet users. Half of the students had cancelled their MySpace accounts and all that had used MySpace said it “wasn’t cool anymore.” One male student defended MySpace as still “good for music.”
I’ve been around enough to know how unreliable small convenience samples are, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say MySpace isn’t cool anymore and its growth has peaked.
We know Facebook shot ahead of MySpace in unique visitors this spring and now has over 300 million users, that Twitter is catching up to MySpace, and MySpace’s growth line on the charts has flattened out. Its traffic might well be in decline now.
Once a mature business starts going over the hump of the S-curve of the business cycle, virtually nothing can be done to reverse the aging process. In the new media economy the life of a business is often as short as the life of a gecko (7-9 years). For an insight into the new media economy, see Judy Sims’ brilliant New Media Economy presentation – it will also shed some light into why MySpace is doomed unless it changes dramatically.
Another reason MySpace will probably slide down the decline slope of the business cycle is because it doesn’t have the fire power after letting go 30 percent of its head-count to innovate technologically.
Google and Apple grow because they innovate – new products, new technologies, and new software. Apple’s strategy was not merely to try to sell more computers; it started a new business – a disruptive technology – the iPod. It didn’t merely try to sell more iPods, it started an new business – a disruptive technology – the iPhone.
What can MySpace do to grow? It has to start a new business, not merely tweak its tired old business. Or it can buy a disruptive technology. News Corp. has the money. If Rupert Murdoch can find $683 million to buy MySpace and $5 billion to buy a frigging newspaper, it can certainly invest $1.5 to 2 billion to buy Twitter.
And Murdoch, Miller, and Van Natta better get off their collective behinds, do it quick, and figure out how to integrate the social networking and communication power of the two platforms into a new killer app, or the soon-to-be announced, awesome Google Wave will put MySpace as it’s currently configured deep into a grave – haunted by the ghosts of once-hip but departed friends who are now on thousands of long-tail, niche social networking sites.
Until he retired in 2002, Charlie Warner was Vice President of AOL's Interactive Marketing division. Before joining AOL, he was the Goldenson Endowed Professor at the Missouri Journalism School where he taught media management and sales, and he created and ran the annual Management Seminar for News Executives. Charlie can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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