MySpace lifted the veil on its much-anticipated redesign today, reining in the Wild West approach the social networking pioneer took to date with a far cleaner design focused on young users and entertainment content.
To be sure, the narrower focus of the new MySpace is a concession that the broader social networking play has passed it by. Facebook is now the “all-things-to-all-people” service, and MySpace isn’t even trying to play that game. MySpace is now a portal to all things music, movies, games and celebrity gossip, and it’s designed for a younger generation. So any discussion of whether the new redesign will help it catch up to Facebook should be shelved now.
Facebook has more than 500 million members worldwide while MySpace has less than half that. And according to eMarketer data quoted in the New York Times, MySpace’s ad revenue is predicted to fall from $470 million in 2009 to $297 million by the end of next year, while Facebook’s ad revenue will grow from $655 million to $1.7 billion in the same timeframe.
Now, instead of comparisons to Facebook, start looking for comparisons to MTV. The new MySpace is more a shot at doing what MTV has been trying to accomplish with its Web properties ever since MTV lost the bidding war for MySpace to NewsCorp in 2005 (When NewsCorp acquired MySpace for $580 million).
“They had to focus and identify a core group they could call their own,” says Gartner analyst Mike McGuire. “This is the demographic that seems to be sticking that they can work with and innovate.”
Visitors to the redesigned MySpace will see very little that looks familiar other than the name, including the earlier unveiled new logo. It’s very slick and clean. Gone are the schizophrenic, migraine-inducing mess of options given each profile that made the site difficult to look at before. Here’s a telling stat: The old MySpace offered 117 logo styles, 152 templates, and 81 button styles to users for customization purposes. Now it has one logo, seven templates, and two button styles.
It’s also better organized. Sharing an update, photo, song or playlist is a simple one-click process. There are separate boxes for each type of content or information desired–be it music, movies, friends photos, etc.—rather than in a muddled list.
All this is created to help better surface relevant content. Like a certain artist? MySpace will show you not only all the activity regarding that artist taking place within MySpace, but also from sources across the Web. Same goes for movies, games and other types of entertainment.
The broader “MySpace Proper” is also closely linked to the MySpace Music service, meaning users can stream songs and playlists, in full, for free, from any profile or source on the site. Artists can more easily stay in contact with their fans and message them with new offers, updates, content and so on with relative ease.
The Most Interesting Part of the Redesign
But the most interesting part is how it adds an element of what could be called gaming to the process of content discovery. MySpace users who are the first to like a certain act are rewarded if that act becomes popular. So when new fans find that act, the MySpace users credited with the early discovery are listed as a suggested person to follow with the idea that the user will then help you discover the next up-and-coming act before they break to the mainstream. (Kind of like being the “mayor” of a certain location on Foursquare.)
Leading the charge is Mike Jones as president, who joined the company in April of 2009. He was joined then by co-president Jason Hirschhorn and CEO Owen Van Natta, both of whom have since left.
The rollout of the new site, which technically is in beta, begins immediately to chunks of users over the next several weeks. The company expects it to be completed by mid-November, but it will remain in beta until all the kinks are worked out.
Many of the features in the updated site originated from the innovations of the MySpace Music joint venture with the major labels. As such, the music arm of the site looks less dramatically different than the overall site. But for the music service to thrive, a more robust MySpace proper was necessary. Label sources speaking to Billboard on background are pleased with the redesign and are happy with the direction MySpace is taking. But now that this step has been taken, they’d like to see MySpace Music add the other elements promised when the venture was first formed, such as finally adding the long-promised merch sales option to artists’ profiles.
At a Fortune-hosted conference this summer, NewsCorp digital head Jon Miller said he expected the revamped MySpace to result in “a very revitalized experience” by this time next year. By all accounts, the new MySpace is a quantum leap past its social networking origins, and address all the complaints that have been leveled against it in the past.
MySpace logo reel: