MySpace Censors Content To Lure Marketers

News Corp. wants to turn Madison Avenue into "ItsSpace" and the media giant is aggressively courting blue-chip marketers for its most prized Internet asset.

Ross Levinsohn, president of Fox Interactive Media, said yesterday the company is looking to broaden the advertising pool for MySpace.com to attract more "brand advertisers."

The pitch? Sounding much like MTV over the last two decades, Levinsohn said MySpace is the "number-one must buy" to "reach the youth of this country."

As it takes that case to major agencies, News Corp. is taking steps to bolster the ad environment on the social networking site. The infrastructure has been upgraded, accelerating page-loading time by 300 percent. Viral video and filmmaker sections have been added to bolster content offerings. And a deal to improve the search functionality is expected within the next 45 days.

But perhaps most importantly to advertisers, the company has added resources to monitor the site's mass of user-generated content. Advertisers have been reticent to experiment with MySpace since the content can be risqué and, in some cases, offensive. News Corp. now reviews 2 million images a day and has removed 200,000 profiles it felt included "questionable material." Still, Levinsohn said, the content is practically infinite with 66 million profiles, making it impossible to inspect it all.

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"It's not for every advertiser, clearly," Levinsohn said.

News Corp. has also launched a "custom solutions team" to assist large advertisers who want to buy space across its Internet portfolio, which ranges from MySpace to FoxSports.com to AmericanIdol.com to gaming site IGN.com. The move could ignite ad buys on MySpace, since the sales force doing business with major advertisers for the Fox Sports or "American Idol" sites may be able to persuade them to experiment with MySpace.

Even as MySpace looks to entice the country's largest advertisers, the site already serves some 2 billion ads a day, though not always without kinks. "It's a challenge even for DoubleClick," said Levinsohn, referring to the site's back-end support provider. Such heavy volume and resulting slowdowns prompted the initiative to upgrade the infrastructure, which Levinsohn said is about 80 percent complete.

With MySpace essentially a canvas open for advertisers to fill with messages, Levinsohn said over time News Corp. may look to reduce inventory in order to "drive CPMs up."

Levinsohn made his comments during an appearance at a Bank of America investor conference in New York.

MySpace, acquired just last year, has become a News Corp. crown jewel. And it appears to be a strategic lodestar, driving the company controlled by 75-year-old Rupert Murdoch to focus on a younger demographic. "We're turning very much into a youth marketing company," Levinsohn said.

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