MySpace Founders Comment On Social Media Arms Race

Was settling in to relax a bit on the couch last night, after a long day of blog posts, tweets and friending, when, in my nightly channel surf, I came across Charlie Rose interviewing this guy who screamed Silicon Valley: boyish good looks, a J. Crew-style sweatshirt, and graying hair that hadn't been combed since he got out of bed or the shower.

Turned out it was Chris DeWolfe of MySpace, who, with his even more boyish co-founder, Tom Anderson, was being interviewed by Rose. A few statements by DeWolfe and Anderson stood out:


  • They view their competitors, at least in terms of ad revenue, as being Yahoo and MSN, not Facebook.
  • They view Facebook as being a more utilitarian communications tool, and MySpace as "more about culture and creativity and expression," per Anderson.
  • They pooh-pooh suggestions by people such as Michael Arrington of TechCrunch that Facebook will surpass MySpace in unique users by January of next year. (Note: Though it wasn't specified in the interview, Arrington was talking about Facebook surpassing MySpace in the U.S.)



Interesting observations, these, as it has become popular, at least in the social-networking circles in which many of you travel, to declare MySpace over and Facebook the victor. (Yeah, I'm guilty of it, too.) We do this even though Facebook hasn't reached MySpace's critical mass in terms of users or revenue.

Here are my thoughts about what DeWolfe and Anderson said:


  • That the portal's true competitors are Yahoo and MSN: It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or five minutes on MySpace or Facebook, to figure out that if Facebook is the Upper East Side, MySpace is Times Square. Ads are everywhere. What's interesting about this view of their competitive set is what DeWolfe and Anderson didn't say. While much of the social media world is concerned about embedding marketing into social media in ways that make marketing a welcome part of the social stream, that isn't as much of a concern for these guys. The big concern, said Anderson, is getting "the advertising world to understand that ... what we have is not that different from what Yahoo has, which is a big audience of people." Are they wrong? Or are the rest of us so hung up on user experience that making money in social networking has become viewed as a bad thing?
  • Facebook as more of a communications tool: When I look at my Facebook usage -- which may, or may not, be typical -- it's true that it is primarily concerned with various forms of communication: posting links, tossing up status updates and emailing within Facebook. MySpace does host massive amounts of audio and video -- I could throw that "Times Square" analogy back in here -- but I'm not sure I agree with Anderson's contention that MySpace is "more focused on the whole world and all the things that people are interested in" rather than just being a people-to-people communications device. If you want to find a way to connect with your passions, Facebook is also a great place to do it.
  • On Facebook surpassing MySpace by January 2010: "No. We're focused on obviously growing our user base, which we are," said DeWolfe. "Year-over-year our unique users are way up, our engagement is up 40%, number of minutes spent on the site is 50% more than our nearest competitor. " (In reply to a question by Rose, DeWolfe added that MySpace users spend an average of 400 minutes per month on the site.) He didn't cite his sources, but one reason those stats may sound odd is that many of us saw a post Mashable did in December featuring U.S.-only numbers from Nielsen Online. It's very likely DeWolfe was quoting global numbers. Meanwhile, the Mashable numbers showed that, as of November, average time spent on MySpace per month declined in the last year by 23%, to 1 hour and 52 minutes. It also showed Facebook's domestic uniques going up 116%, to 47 million, while MySpace's went up 3%, to 59 million. ComScore's number paint a very different picture for MySpace, showing, as of December, that uniques are up 10% year-over-year and total minutes spent on the site are up 42%. There's much more data drilling to be done here to figure out what is really going on.


As I was writing this column, the full interview was posted here at I'd suggest you take 32 minutes and stream it, then come back and comment here, of course. In the social networks arms race, it's fuel for thought.

8 comments about "MySpace Founders Comment On Social Media Arms Race".
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  1. Tony Mariotti, February 4, 2009 at 8:40 p.m.

    "...this guy who screamed Silicon Valley." You know MS is an LA company, right?

  2. Cathy Taylor from MediaPost, February 4, 2009 at 9:36 p.m.

    To Tony: I do know they are based in LA. Meant to mention it...but he screamed Silicon Valley anyway, if you know what I mean...particularly in the context of the grizzled, suit-wearing execs who usually show up on Charlie Rose...

  3. Monica Bower from TERiX Computer Service, February 4, 2009 at 10:58 p.m.

    MySpace may have more ads but the quality is absolutely abysmal. Few clients want to compete with the jiggling fat before and after diet scam ads and the credit assistance and cash for gold guys. Yes, it may be crass of me to complain about the quality of ads and advertisers when revenue is what matters, but if Facebook is prime time, Myspace is late night cable, and they will never overcome their image. In reality myspace looks more like a european site - their idea of aesthetic layout tends to be louder than the US version - but they are lagging behind everywhere but the US. In my own unscientific asking-around surveys I have seen an exodus of people away from MySpace and a massive uptick in the number of regular-jill-and-joe normal consumers to facebook. The fact that every day there's a new story featuring MySpace representatives protesting that they're still #1 leads me to suspect that they are in serious trouble already.

  4. Steve Sarner from if(we), February 5, 2009 at 8:25 a.m.

    Having just left Fox Interactive Media and MySpace to join my new firm, I was pretty close to how Chris and his marketing team is working to position MySpace as something very different than Facebook. I think it is obvious that FB has become the go to communication tool and frankly, I think it will surpass MySpace in USA unique users as measured by ComScore well before January of next year. Don't be suprised if it happens by this summer - FB does have that much critical mass and multiple growth inflection points.

    Cathy I agree that you can find great ways to connect with your passions on Facebook - but would contend that MySpace is both easier and more interesting when it some to discovering new things - particularly music, film and other entertainment.

    And while I appreciate Monica's comments about ad quality - one has to look beyond the standard display ads. MySpace has fantastic ad products (such as custom communities) and the ability to direct targeted traffic into these ad solutions that are huge hits for scores of blue chip advertisers.

    Combine these with their hyper-targeting and it provides a marketing solution that off-line advertising and non-social media sites could never begin to replicate.

    Please people - stop being so hung up on standard displays ads. And by the way - those stupid ads placed on the mass volume of traffic and pages generate a tremendous amount of revenue - so you may hate them and not click on them but guess what - millions of others click and find value in them every single day.

    Brands that use the unique power of social media sites are the winners. That can happen on the "big 2" and is also happening on many other social media sites today. We're at the beginning and the MySpace- Facebook "arms race" is more of a horse race for #1 and is kind of fun to watch but really does not matter too much.

    The real story is the whole evolution and adoption of social media on a whole (not just the networking sites themselves) and how it is changing the face of media.

  5. Catherine Ventura from @catherinventura, February 5, 2009 at 10:20 a.m.

    Hmmm... Interesting that they view Yahoo and MSN as competitors. Wonder if they have plans to evolve?

  6. Cam Sivesind from Oregon Society of CPAs, February 5, 2009 at 11:51 a.m.

    Personally, I deleted my MySpace page and am enjoying Facebook much more. MySpace is more juvenile, whereas, in my opinion, Facebook is "adult" and I have enjoyed my connections through Facebook much more. Professionally, my work is developing a Facebook page as another avenue for our emerging and current professionals to interact with each other and engage our association. We are not developing a MySpace page.

  7. rock star, July 3, 2009 at 3:14 p.m.

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