I sat down with MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland for a few minutes between sessions he was participating in. Travis Katz, GM of MySpace International, was also supposed to attend but was off skiing for the day.
Regarding MySpace, DeWolfe says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about revenue for the fiscal year and notes that five-year old MySpace has had faster revenue growth than almost any other Internet company.
DeWolfe also talks about upcoming enhancements to MySpace music, particularly around the creation and sharing of playlists and charts that may be able to spot music trends faster than any other service.
We end the conversation with a discussion of Mobile. DeWolfe says 18 million people a month now access MySpace via a mobile device (BlackBerry users love it). But don’t expect location based services to come soon, which we see as a huge growth market – DeWolfe says “meeting new friends based on a location service sounds a little creepy to me.” (compare to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments yesterday when he said they will eventually embrace location services).
The full Transcript is below. Also, watch all the way to the end of the video for bonus footage where i make a nuisance of myself waiting for the interview to begin:
Michael Arrington: Alright I’m here with MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe
Chris DeWolfe: Hi Mike
Michael Arrington: Also with Travis Katz, your head of international… Oh, he’s skiing today, right?
Chris DeWolfe: I think he put in a few hours.. He had a hard time getting into a few of these buildings. There’s a lot of cops outside.
Michael Arrington: He didn’t have an actual official badge, did he?
Chris DeWolfe: Nah, I think he’s working on it.
Michael Arrington: So first of all, the most important question. What do you think of the two star hotel you’re staying in here in Davos?
Chris DeWolfe: I particularly like the Murphy beds that come out of the wall. And the blankets.. I burned myself in the shower.
Michael Arrington: So for people who don’t know, this is a very small ski town and there’s 2,500 people at this event. So everyone piles in and pays exorbitant five star hotel rates for two star ski lodge hotels. And literally you have a Murphy bed?
Chris DeWolfe: I do. I have a murphy bed. There’s one right next to it too. But nobody’s occupied it so it’s a little bit of a waste of room.
Michael Arrington: So this isn’t your first time at the World Economic Forum..
Chris DeWolfe: No it’s actually the second time.. I was here two years ago
Michael Arrington: And how is it different that it was two years ago?
Chris DeWolfe: I just think the subject matter is a lot different. It’s definitely more somber. I wasn’t so much about the economy two years ago, it was about internet, clean energy, ecology..
Michael Arrington: Yeah, not as much about that now. The green stuff has kind of been put aside and now it’s more about the economy.
Chris DeWolfe: The economy effects media, it effects virtually every business. We talked last night … about it’s really been amplified by the media, and by successful companies that are spending less money because everyone else is..
Michael Arrington: How is it affecting MySpace? You’ve been pretty bullish on your sales figures for this year, you’ve done incredible the last couple of years..
Chris DeWolfe: The last six months have been great, so the first half of our fiscal year through December 31st, have been great, and we’re hopeful for the next six months but anyone who says they can control what’s going to happen in the economy is just pretty wrong. So we’re cautiously optimistic but we’re anticipating fewer dollars in the future, tough times ahead. But in terms of how we’re positioned vis a vi our competition, we feel great about that given all the investments we’ve made, and our technology and our sales force..
Michael Arrington: So this is.. We’re right around your fifth anniversary.
Chris DeWolfe: Yeah, it was January it was our fifth year anniversary.
Michael Arrington: Okay, so you didn’t make the billion dollar number last year that was talked about but if you had of, would that.. that would have been the fastest company to hit a billion or, the same as Google..?
Chris DeWolfe: I think so, I think someone else did it in six years, we’re really happy with the number and I think if you had come out last year and said our target was 500 million..
Michael Arrington: Right but you blew it away.
Chris DeWolfe: It’s more of a matter of expectations. We’ve had a great year, we had a great first six months..
Michael Arrington: So you guys obviously have been focused on revenue and have been doing a great job with it. Your user growth has continued to add, I think it was 10% per year for very large numbers.
Chris DeWolfe: Yeah, we’re.. US we’re at 76 million
Michael Arrington: And you were at 69 maybe a year ago?
Chris DeWolfe: And as important, our user engagement, which is 40% year over year.
Michael Arrington: People are spending a lot of time on the site…
Michael Arrington: Have you found that MySpace Music has been increasing user engagement?
Chris DeWolfe: I think so, yeah, I mean if you look at it, there’s 95 million playlists that have been created, and that’s a very very beta launch. I think it was October, so it’s only been around for three months, but we just hired a new president who started a few weeks ago, we have a whole product line in place and we’re going to really build that out. I think that’s going to have a huge impact on the site.
Michael Arrington: What are some of the enhancements we’ll see to MySpace Music? As a daily user it’s a little slow, a little sluggish sometimes, playlists aren’t really sharable, charts aren’t what they could be. Are those some of the things we’ll see improve in the short term?
Chris DeWolfe: Yeah definitely, We’ve made a lot of improvements to the player. The player’s pretty consistent now and it loads pretty well, in terms of charting, there’s going to be virtually every kind of chart imaginable… top playlists, what are your friends listening to, break it down by genre. It’s going to be a lot more about discovery. Right now you get notified when your friend adds a new song to their playlist.
Chris DeWolfe: So right now you get notified when you friend adds a new song to her playlist, right
Michael Arrington: But I can’t publicly post a playlist, right? other than on my homepage and my myspace right? but if I create a random playlist, there’s no way to make that public yet, right?
Chris DeWolfe: Public to who?
Michael Arrington: To anyone I might share it with. I can’t actually share, I mean you couldn’t last time I looked at it
Chris DeWolfe: to like send a share link
Michael Arrington: Yeah
Chris DeWolfe: hey come checkout my playlist
Michael Arrington: yeah, right, copy it..
Chris DeWolfe: I mean there’s going to be a lot of social elements that we’re gooing to have to do as well as technical elements so collaborative filtering for example. myspace will get smarter and smarter about the music that you’re listening to. I don’t think the genres, but the specific artists themselves. we’ll make recommendations to you. there will also be more of an editorial element as we hire more editors to bring the high-velocity artists forward. when i say high-velocity, I mean artists where there songs got added to the playlist really early.
Michael Arrington: To see trends really early. you might be able to see trends before anyone else does, right?
Chris DeWolfe: exactly. so our editors will be looking at that from a data analytics standpoint and you know just from a gut feel standpoint.
Michael Arrington: You know, where do you see that going? like mobile social networking with presence understanding where your friends are maybe meeting new people based on where you are when will you get deep into that and obviously what are the privacy concerns around that
Chris DeWolfe: yeah, so first of all our mobile business has grown tremendously so all the promises of people accessing myspace and other sites through their mobile devices has finally
Michael Arrington: Particularly on blackberry devices it seems
Chris DeWolfe: yeah, it’s the fastest downloaded application of all time for blackberry and we have about 18 million unique users accessing myspace through their mobile devices it’s definitely here
Michael Arrington: In terms of location based services I think there’s major applications for advertizers and that’s what we’re currently excited about and then um, you know the whole notion of taking photos and having the exact location…
Chris DeWolfe: I think there’s major applications for advertisers and that’s what we are really excited about. And then the whole notion of taking photos and having the exact location stamped on those photos and being able to upload them directly, that’s been great. We have that. And being able to write a review since location based services now get you within a couple meters of your exact location where you are at, so if you are at a restaurant and have a really good meal, you should be able to write a review directly from there . So we are really excited about the advertising side of things. In terms finding friends or meeting new friends, I think that’s a ways off. And meeting new friends based on a location service sounds a little creepy to me.
Michael Arrington: Thanks very much for your time. I know you are literally running to a session. What’s your session on?
Chris DeWolfe: It’s on data mining.
Michael Arrington: Data mining? That sounds really boring
Chris DeWolfe: No that’s actually the future of advertising.
Michael Arrington: Thanks for your time.
Chris DeWolfe: Thanks a lot Mike.