No one ever reads, or comments on, my columns to do with Myspace. But, since hope springs eternal, let me try again. Here's a thought: What if Google bought Myspace?
See? Throw Google into the sentence and everything starts to change! I put Google in the mix not just because it's a craven ploy to get you to read this column, but because the idea of it's buying Myspace was actually floated by Gawker, after News Corp. COO Chase Carey 'fessed up at the Reuters Global Media Summit that Myspace was on the block. (He more or less said so on the company's fiscal Q1 earnings call a few weeks ago, but not as many people noticed.)
Valley Wag added two and two together, but I can't figure out if its calculations equaled four -- or five. For one, as Gawker reasoned, Google appears to keep stalling on Google Me, its social product, originally slated for launch this year. Second, you may have noticed it just made a $6 billion bid for Groupon, the social shopping site, which means that, if nothing else, it wants to be in on social commerce. So how badly does Google want Groupon? Its bid is roughly four times GroupOn's valuation, per The New York Times, which underscored the size of the bid with this great soundbite from Forrester retail analyst Sucharita Mulpuru: "A multibillion-dollar valuation for a company that is in a business with virtually no barriers to entry and is younger than my toddler is absurd." Which, I guess, is why Google would buy Myspace ---because it's silly season in social networking.
If Google wants in that badly, it could buy Myspace on the cheap, keep realizing whatever search revenue there is in perpetuity, instead of on a contract-to-contract basis, and shove the whole thing under the rug if it doesn't work. Surely, it would not have to pay anywhere close to $6 billion. With traffic and revenue steeply declining at Myspace, it would cost less than the $580 million News Corp. paid for it back in 2005, when people still cared about it.
But there are actually sounder reasons to buy Myspace besides the mere fact that Google has the money: Google Music, and, to a lesser extent, Google TV. Myspace's recent redesign, not surprisingly, centers on entertainment content. While some of that focus is just an attempt to claim a position, it's very real when it comes to music. which Google is trying to get into with an iTunes-like product (a project that, like Google Me, also seems to be delayed). Apple, of course, has the music-themed social net Ping, so Google could do worse than to have a social append to practically everything it does going forward. Starting with Myspace is better than starting from scratch.
As far as Google TV is concerned, the thing needs glue of some sort, as the broadcast networks have extracted themselves from it as quickly as humanly possible. Owning a content-driven social network wouldn't hurt, even if Google TV ends up being the Edsel of 2010 -- which it probably will.
And then, there's this: as the tepid response to every Myspace column I've ever written indicates, the social net isn't viewed as worthy of attention. But, just like the plain Jane who suddenly catches the eye of the high school quarterback, attach it to Google, and suddenly things change. In the short term, that's only good for Myspace, but in the long-term Google, given its surprising social awkwardness, might benefit as well.