MySpace CEO: "Our users don’t know if we’re a social portal, a music site, or an entertainment hub"

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One thing that’s great about MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta – his emails to employees always have at least one good sound bite. In June the zinger was his reference to laid off employees as “bloat.” This time, he’s saying it like it is, again: “Our users don’t know if we’re a social portal, a music site, or an entertainment hub.”

Neither do we. MySpace always described itself as a social network until they weren’t the biggest social network any more. At various times since then they’ve called themselves a “premier lifestyle portal,” an “online community that lets you meet your friends’ friends” or just the largest “social portal” in the world that doesn’t begin with “F” and end in “book.”

Anyway, I assume Van Natta will have an answer to what exactly MySpace is at some point in the near future. He also says “In the last week, we’ve made some small but meaningful site changes that will lay the groundwork to provide more clarity on our brand and business” (all we’ve seen is a logo change, but there are likely other small changes).

Meanwhile, here’s his email to the troops, confirming our stories that Travis Katz is leaving and Mike Macadaan is joining, among other personnel changes.

From: Owen Van Natta
Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2009
To: FIM MySpace All
Subject: Organizational Update

Hi everyone,

As we continue to evolve our organization there are some changes I’d like to update everyone on.

After nearly two years of managing MySpace’s product organization, SVP of Product Tom Andrus has decided to explore other opportunities. During his tenure at MySpace, Tom brought a level of professionalism to the product organization and established a true discipline of product management. He helped create a dynamic, top notch team of product talent responsible for managing one of the biggest platforms on the planet. I personally appreciate all the support that Tom has given the new management team and look forward to welcoming new talent to compliment the tremendous group we currently have in place. We expect to see incredible things from Tom and wish him the best in his future plans.

After more than three years running MySpace’s international business, MD and SVP of International Travis Katz has decided to leave the company to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities. Travis joined News Corp in 2004 and was one of the principal authors of the company’s digital strategy, which led to the creation of Fox Interactive Media and the acquisitions of MySpace and IGN among other sites. In February, 2006, Travis joined MySpace to lead the company’s international expansion, and under his leadership, MySpace grew its international user base from 12 million to more than 60 million active users. Travis leaves as a friend to MySpace and to the executive team – we wish him and his family the best of luck in future endeavors. Travis will remain with the company through the end of August to help with the transition.

International will continue to be a major priority for MySpace going forward and I’m proud to announce that Rebekah Horne – formerly our GM of Europe and Australia – will be taking over as MD and SVP of International. During her tenure at MySpace, Rebekah has done an incredible job inspiring and leading teams across Europe and the rest of the world. Rebekah spent last week in LA working with us on strategic planning and this week I plan to join her in London to meet with our leadership team in Europe. Please join me in congratulating Rebekah on her new role.

As I’ve said before, simplifying and unifying our site is fundamental to our success going forward. MySpace should feel like one platform – not 15 sites loosely stitched together. We consider our diverse content offering a strength but t oo many logos and disorganized verticals makes the site difficult to navigate and creates confusion about our brand identity. Our users don’t know if we’re a social portal, a music site, or an entertainment hub. In the last week, we’ve made some small but meaningful site changes that will lay the groundwork to provide more clarity on our brand and business. Unifying MySpace is critical to how we define ourselves to the world. We’re beginning to start this process and I’d like to introduce two major hires to the product organization.

Please join me in welcoming Katie Geminder, our new SVP of User Experience and Design. Katie began her career designing user experiences at Amazon, where she led large cross-functional and customer experience initiatives including the Amazon.com Kitchen Store, Target.com, and the Amazon Services e-Commerce platform. Since then she has worked for top online and technology companies including Apple and Facebook. For Katie, great user experience and design lives at the convergence of product, engineering, and design. A great user experience is dependent on two things, a clear and concise vision augmented by user feedback and the collaboration of business, product, technology, and engineering teams.

Improving our product interface is a major component of creating an exceptional user experience. With that, I’d like to welcome Mike Macadaan as our new VP of Product. Prior to joining MySpace, Mike served as Vice President of User Experience at the start-up publishing network Tsavo Media. Mike is a fixture in the start-up scene as the founder of Twiistup, an industry standard startup showcase. At AOL, Mike led the team responsible for creating Magnet, the company’s groundbreaking first effort at personalization and behavioral targeting, which gave AOL an in-depth look at the needs of their users. At MySpace Mike’s job is to push, inspire, and lead the product organization. He’ll be responsible for developing next gen experiences that will reset the growth for MySpace.

Finally, we’ve spent the last few weeks designing a framework that provides tremendous clarity to the way in which our product and technology teams will be working together moving forward. Next week, Jason and Mike are going to walk employees through the new team structure of our technology and product group. I appreciate the input from everyone across the company that has helped develop this architecture.

Thanks,
Owen

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