Justin Timberlake’s new movie In Time hit theatres a few weeks ago, which made me wonder, “Hey! Whatever happened to Justin’s other big project this year?” Now, I’m not saying that In Time doesn’t look good (it does: TRAILER), but I’m much more interested in what’s happening with MySpace.
Full disclosure: I’m a former MySpace employee.
If you missed the headlines this summer, along with company Specific Media, JT acquired MySpace for $35 million on June 29th – compare that to Fox’s News Corp who paid a whopping $580 million exactly 6 years previous. Of the purchase of the site, Timberlake said:
“There’s a need for a place where fans can go to interact with their favorite entertainers, listen to music, watch videos, share and discover cool stuff and just connect. MySpace has the potential to be that place.”
Then he and his manager go on to say they:
“…plan to steer the site’s focus in the direction of music and entertainment.” (Mashable, July 5, 2011)
What? Is this guy for real?!
Now maybe I’m crazy, but I’m almost positive that MySpace has been exactly that place for 8 years. In fact, in June of 2005 MySpace was so successful at being the ‘place that fans interacted with their favourite entertainers, listened to music, watched videos and connected’ with their friends that they surpassed Google in overall traffic rankings.
Back in July, Timberlake also said he might like to turn MySpace into “a talent competition or something like that,” but left us all waiting with baited breath until they unveiled the detailed plans for the future of the site at a press conference on August 17th. That press conference never happened.
There is a lot of speculation about what put the final nail in the coffin of MySpace. Generally, it’s boiled down to lack of innovation in the height of their success, an unreliable product and tremendous competitors in Facebook and Twitter. I believe there’s another reason for the failure of MySpace, and I believe it’s the same reason that Justin Timberlake and Specific Media won’t succeed in reinvigorating the brand.
In MySpace’s rapid international expansion, they hired management teams around the world to manage the site and the brand, but they didn’t necessarily hire people who understood what made MySpace special. In Canada, an entire management team who had never used the site was installed. When Facebook took off, the decision makers didn’t understand what set MySpace apart and how to leverage that for future success. When the executive team in the US finally realised that the landscape had changed, MySpace underwent several major re-designs, but it was too little too late. When I hear that the new ownership want to turn MySpace into exactly what it already was, I know that they don’t have the right vision to turn the site around either.
They certainly won’t be able to turn it around if they don’t start talking and working the brand publicly (rumour has it they’re talking privately). Timberlake’s celebrity certainly gives Specific Media an edge, but with an unfocused strategy and false promises already made, they’re not off to a good start.