Social media giant MySpace takes baby steps
In the battle between MySpace and Facebook for world domination, Facebook is on top. While MySpace still has the largest U.S. audience of any online social network, Facebook was declared the world's largest online social network as of last April in a report issued by comScore.
Then, as if MySpace hadn't taken a big enough blow, international superstar David Hasselhoff launched HoffSpace, a social networking site for his legions of fans, and announced he wouldn't be "interacting much more on MySpace." Dissed by the Hoff - that has to hurt.
Well-aware that its one-time dominance of the social networking arena is under attack from all sides, MySpace recently launched - with help from strategic and design firm Adaptive Path - what it bills as a redesign in hopes of engaging current users, attracting new ones and drawing in more advertisers.
Among the changes to MySpace: The splash page has been simplified and modified to give advertisers a larger creative platform through which to sell their brands; the navigation has been reconfigured so it takes fewer clicks to find what you're looking for; the profile editor offers new personalization options; search has been enhanced through the Lucene Open-Source engine; and the MySpace TV player now makes full use of Flash 9, can be seen in true full-screen mode and supports HD.
MySpace does look less like the inside of a 12-year-old's locker now. But will a trio of digital experts, made up of Alessandra Lariu of McCann Erickson, Tequila's Scott McFarlin and Chris Miller of Element 79 Partners, be blown away by the redesign? Or, like the Hoff, are they over MySpace?
OMMA: Overall, what do you make of the redesign?
McFarlin: I'm a little cautious about using the word "redesign" because it doesn't seem like they did a whole lot. They fixed some things, but I wouldn't say they did a full redesign. They definitely improved parts of the site.
Lariu: Yeah, it wasn't a redesign.
Miller: It seems to be more of a refresh than a redesign.
OMMA: So does this "refresh" improve MySpace?
Miller: From an advertisers' standpoint, there are a lot more opportunities now, both in terms of the kinds of units you can have and the level of integration versus what it was before.
OMMA: The splash page offers takeover opportunities.
McFarlin: It's great for advertisers. The intro page has a nice, big, rich ad that's on a pretty high-profile gateway to this site. It's prime real estate.
Miller: I think if the advertiser does it right - like Sprint and Target have - with an interactive ad and thinks about the MySpace psychographic and demographic and persona, then these [splash page takeovers] can be really impactful.
OMMA: What do you think of the amount of advertising on the new and improved MySpace?
Lariu: I always thought that MySpace was pretty crazy with the advertising. They have advertising everywhere, whereas on Facebook - because it's contextual - I pay more attention to it.
McFarlin: It feels intrusive to me. If you go to your profile page, you've got a banner at the top, and you've got three ads on the right side and then some more sponsored links down the left side. It's quite a bit of advertising.
Miller: Putting on my advertiser hat, I think it's great because there are a lot of other opportunities. But when I look at it from usability, I'm like, "Hmmm ... is the amount of advertising going to frustrate some users?"
OMMA: How would you rate the MySpace TV player updates?
McFarlin: That's probably the most notable change. The quality of the video is better, and the actual features that they put on the player - like the scrubber - work really well.
Miller: I think one of the coolest things about [the player now being able to handle HD] is it creates more opportunity. If you really want to create high-quality stuff for MySpace now, there's an outlet for it.
OMMA: Some critics say these updates to MySpace are coming way too late. Do you think MySpace is in reactive mode due to competition from Facebook and YouTube?
Miller: It's funny you say that. One of the big things I saw out of this update was them sort of trying to sort of out-YouTube YouTube and out-Facebook Facebook.
McFarlin: MySpace looks nicer now, but it is such a huge property and they have so many people that I would expect them to be more of a leader in this industry, and what I feel like they're doing is playing catch-up to what other people are doing. There is YouTube out there, so they made a better video player. Facebook has applications, so they added that.
Lariu: I heard some teenagers talking about Facebook vs. MySpace the other day, and it was really funny. They were saying they preferred Facebook, because it's more about friends and friendship, and that MySpace has become really slutty with all these women and men with their [provocative] pictures. I thought that was quite interesting.
OMMA: If you were overseeing the next MySpace redesign, what would you do?
McFarlin: I would clean up the organization of people's personal home pages, and I would improve the functionality. It's really design and functionality that I still feel need improvement.
Lariu: If I were MySpace, I would be thinking, what can we offer to users that no one else has offered before? Is there anything that we can do with mobile? A cool link to mobile or cool ways of doing things with mobile that Facebook is not doing?
Miller: You have to walk a fine line between monetizing things to sell advertising and still keeping a great user experience, and right now they've come close to maybe edging over a little bit too far into the advertisers' side. The more they can work with their advertisers, and the more they can help them to make work that's more suited and fits within the MySpace environment, the better MySpace will be overall.