Something is up at MySpace. Everything was quiet for a long while as they went through executive turnover and mass layoffs. But suddenly they are back seeking the limelight.
CEO Owen Van Natta is making his first public interview next week at the Web 2.0 Summit. The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by the same parent company as MySpace (News Corp.) wrote a glowing if somewhat vague turnaround story on MySpace today titled “MySpace Tries to Recover Its Cool.” And, of course, MySpace is throwing a party. Van Natta sent an email to Silicon Valley tech and entertainment press inviting them to a “secret show” concert next week right after he’s interviewed, with the exact venue and band to be announced the day before.
The odd WSJ article, which disclosed the sister-company conflict of interest nine paragraphs into the article, seems to be saying that MySpace will focus on social networking around content as a way to win. In a sentence that appears to be directly from a press release, the article says: “In a strategy shift, MySpace is striving to become an online hangout for people to connect with friends over entertainment content, whether it’s the new Pearl Jam album, blogs from celebrities like British pop singer Lily Allen or a karaoke contest for the Fox musical comedy “Glee.”" The article also quotes Chief Product Officer Jason Hirschhorn: “This is not an all-things-for-everybody portal…This is a social entertainment experience.”
And those page view declines? The WSJ article notes that U.S. unique visitors are down 15% year over year. But the article doesn’t note the much more serious decline in page views. U.S. page views were nearly cut in half, from 40 billion to 22 billion per month from September 2008 to September 2009 (Comscore). Worldwide, page views dropped from 44 billion to 27 billion per month during that same period, a 39% drop. MySpace has lost 13 million unique monthly visitors since April alone, when Van Natta began his tenure.
And while the article says MySpace revenue will likely fall this year, they don’t mention the revenue cliff the company faces next June, when $300 million/year in Google welfare money dries up. At that point, there’s no way MySpace will continue to be profitable unless even more serious layoffs are made. I wonder if Van Natta will talk about that on stage next week. I’m guessing not.