What do you get when you buy a company for $580 million six years ago and resell it today for $35 million?
A bad headache, some sleepless nights and an endless round of mental flagellation about what you did wrong, probably. However, there is no need to speculate: just ask News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who finally managed to unload the failing social networking company MySpace onto ad network Specific Media. There is no word on whether Murdoch uses a dart board with Facebook founder and chairman Mark Zuckerberg's youthful face pinned to it for target practice.
What probably sticks most in the craw of everyone involved with the purchase and operation of MySpace since 2005 is that it was once very mighty. At its peak, it had 70 million users (though consider that that number is only one-tenth of Facebook's 700 million users), generated $800 million in ad revenue in 2008 and grew almost 2,300 percent in page views over four years, according to research company comScore.
So now begin the post-mortems. What went wrong? Was it apathy? Was it indifference by older social networking users who found MySpace too kid-oriented? Was it Facebook? It would be hard not to hold Facebook somewhat responsible: as Zuckerberg's company rose, it took users from MySpace away by the millions, leaving MySpace a shell of its former self, used largely by a youthful demographic who wanted a site that their parents weren't on for sharing and discussing music.
So what does its new owner, Specific Media, plan to do with MySpace? Thirty-five million dollars isn't exactly pocket change, even it's only a fraction of the company's former worth.
Epoch Times writes that Specific Media’s new strategy is to capitalize on celebrity marketing, specifically through The Social Network actor Justin Timberlake, who now apparently owns a chunk of MySpace. But what does that offer to social networking users over age 14?
In order to regain any kind of dominance, or even an ability to compete, MySpace would need to win back users (ones who have finished adolescence) who just prefer the Facebook model, says Epoch Times.
Though, since Facebook is already showing signs of market saturation in many countries, perhaps Facebook isn't the party to beat. If, as Epoch Times suggests, the aging of a social networking site correlates with its decline (people like “shiny new things”), maybe Google's new social networking venture, Google+, will be the one to beat.
“MySpace will need to overcome the fact that not only will it have to compete with a massive and dedicated user base from Facebook, which itself is beginning to show signs of burning out social networkers, but it will need to somehow keep itself in the spotlight as Google+ gains good remarks and intense buzz,” writes Ridge Shan for Epoch Times.
And somehow I just don't see Justin Timberlake winning out against Google...do you?
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