MySpace is so controversial.
The draw is their reported thirty-eight million monthly users, which places them inside the top ten of Nielsen reported destinations, slightly ahead of Amazon.com while staring up at the number one slot occupied by Yahoo (105 million reported monthly users). However, beyond the "massive reach and engagement" that MySpace delivers, advertisers do not like what they see. If they looked today, they would see yet another headline--this one below from CNN.com, involving sexual predators:
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A 14-year-old girl who says she was sexually assaulted by another user of MySpace.com sued the social networking Web site Monday, claiming it does not take sufficient steps to protect underage members.
There are obvious reasons that advertisers could choose to avoid MySpace. However, there are equally obvious reasons this property may be the marketing panacea advertisers cannot avoid if they want to stay connected to the post-Internet consumer.
Beyond the "consumer generated content" hook hooking many marketers today, the premise of MySpace is pyramid like in nature. You create your own MySpace page, and then you can quickly become networked to those with similar interests. When you come across a new piece of music you like or you take a cool picture from your vacation, passing it on to others with interests similar to yours to appreciate is relatively simple. Substitute "cool picture" with "cool product" and you can see why advertisers would be intrigued.
Within a day of signing up for my own MySpace page, I witnessed the forces of "networking" in play. I received an e-mail message at my Yahoo account announcing: "You've got a new message from Anna on MySpace!" Anna wanted to let me know she had a web cam and would like me to stop in to see her some time. Thanks, Anna. Subsequently, a very young and very pretty woman named Melissa from MySpace e-mailed me to make me aware of some low mortgage rates. Then there is Tom, who has become "my friend," apparently. Tom is a musician from California, whose music automatically plays when I click open his link featured on my space on MySpace.
Traditional publishing companies heavily invest in a content strategy supported by authenticity and credibility. This guides their business of creating a perception of premium-valued inventory. Self-created content found on MySpace, on the other hand, is often heavily invested in self-promotion. The publishing business model at MySpace by definition lacks a clearly defined content strategy and the guiding principles of authenticity and credibility. The rates for the inventory sold currently on MySpace are indicative of a lack of perceived value.
MySpace is less like a publisher and more like a property owner for what appears to be a gigantic online flea market for young adults to sell their wares. Web cams, mortgage rates, music, or just their own self worth--everyone seems to be selling something. So it begs the question--if MySpace is crawling with sellers selling to sellers, does it make sense for advertisers to advertise in an arena with no buyers?
Back in 1999, Yahoo paid $3.6 billion dollars for GeoCities, a network of 19 million monthly users at the time, who produced their own content that was broadly categorized and sold to advertisers (sound familiar?). GeoCities, like MySpace, struggles with "appropriate environment" issues--but for all we know, the acquisition helped Yahoo secure that number-one traffic position they maintain today. Ironically, one of the senior executives involved in selling GeoCities to Yahoo was recently hired by Fox to help invigorate ad sales for MySpace. Oh what a tangled web we weave.
Note: Please visit www.Publishing2.com and do a search for "MySpace" to learn more about the issues related to this property if further interested to do so. Scott Karp, who writes this Blog, is someone I met once professionally.