Last.FM Needs More Than A Redesign To Catch Up To Imeem

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Yesterday, CBS sent out a press release touting the success of Last.fm’s month-old redesign, citing a 20 percent increase in unique visitors and a 36 percent increase in total minutes between June and July. Despite a few bugs on the day of launch, the redesign seems to be paying off. But why is CBS so keen on beating its chest when it comes to Last.fm?

Ever since CBS bought Last.fm in May, 2007 for $280 million, it’s been under pressure to justify the purchase. At the time of the purchase, Last.fm was running neck-and-neck against social music network imeem and music radio service Pandora.. Today, imeem is killing Last.fm (see Google Trends for Websites chart above), and Pandora is still holding its own.

Since CBS cited comScore numbers, though, let’s look at those. In June, 2007, the first month under CBS ownership, Last.fm has 2.5 million unique U.S. visitors. A year later, in June, 2008, it had 2.4 million. In other words, it had gone absolutely nowhere. In July, after the redesign, it had 2.9 million. Meanhwhile, during the same time period, both imeem and Pandora doubled to 7 million and 4.8 million unique U.S. visitors, respectively. And these numbers don’t include imeem’s widgets, which the company says reaches about four times as many people as its site does on a worldwide basis.

And in terms of time spent on each site (engagement), imeem is heads and tails above both, with visitors spending 295 million minutes on the site in July, compared to 56 million minutes for Pandora and 20 million minutes for Last.fm.

The comparison with imeem isn’t completely fair because it is a broader social network centered around sharing videos and photos as well as music, although music is its main driver. (In fact, it is leading the move towards advertising supported music streaming, with a more comprehensive catalog than Last.fm’s). And Last.fm isn’t doing so well against Pandora either, which is a more direct competitor.

So did CBS totally screw up its acquisition of Last.fm, or will the redesign be enough to put it back on track?

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