Web 2.0 Summit: V For Van Natta: The Socialization Of Content

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10694v5-max-250x250MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta is here at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. He sat down with Federated Media’s John Battelle to answer some questions about his company.

Van Natta clearly had a strategy for this Q&A: To say “the socialization of content” as much as possible. That’s the direction he wants to lead the social network in as it attempts to prove it can exist in a world where Facebook has passed it as the dominant social network.

So what does the catchphrase mean? Van Natta thinks MySpace has a unique position on the web because of its music deals with all the major labels and the independent ones. And because it’s a much more open network than Facebook, he believes this will work to MySpace’s advantage in helping people find content.

And that’s why Van Natta had not one, but two announcements today surrounding MySpace Music. The first is a dashboard that artists can use to see analytics about who is visiting their page and listening to their music on the network. The second is a single hub for all music video content. (We covered both more in-depth here) Again, this is possible because of MySpace’s unique music deals with the labels, Van Natta stressed.

Van Natta wouldn’t comment on the talk that Google is unhappy with the major ad deal the signed in 2006 and is set to expire next year. He did say that MySpace has always been great at monetizing its site and losing any one deal would not be a major blow.

Earlier today, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s keyword was “sharing.” That’s essentially what Van Natta is saying too, but he’s betting that his more open network and strong media ties will differentiate it.

Find the full Q&A below (paraphrased):

JB: So, did you do a deal with Twitter (laughs)? What are you doing with MySpace?

OV: What we’re doing with MySpace is what me and Rupert first talked about it. We think it can be the next generation of digital distribution of content on the web. It’s happening through people and not through portals. It’s the “socialization of content.”

JB: To the crowd: How many people have a MySpace page (maybe 20%), how many have a Facebook Page? (everyone). So how is MySpace different, why use it?

OV: We think we’re different from Facebook because you don’t have to have a real connection to use it. Maybe you use it to discover music. Music tastes get influenced by your friends. Also movies. These are touchstones in relationships. You shouldn’t have to know them in the socialization of content.

JB: MySpace Music is a very big deal. How is music playing into this strategy? Does that box competition out?

OV: Music is a great example of our socialization of content. Everyone loves music across all demographics. Our music label relationships are unique and that gives us content that other networks don’t have. MySpace is the only place you can go today to stream all the music you want. And every band out there today has a presence on MySpace.

And today we’re launching an Artist Dashboard (more on that here). This is our first example of our integration with iLike, the deal we recently closed. You can see all kinds of data. Geographic breakdowns, etc. There was a huge demand for things like this from artists. And they can use this data beyond the web – like when they think about tour dates. This will be available to all artists.

And we can extend this across other entertainment models.

JB: Will you charge for it?

OV: I think we’ll find other ways to monetize. One more product announcement is that we’re launching the full catalog of music videos from all the labels (big and independant) in one place for the first time. This is a byproduct of our relatioships with the labels.

We know that we can make the site a lot easier to use, and we’re working on that. This is one thing. This is a cleaner design than a lot of areas of the site. This will launch as I step off the stage. This will surface videos in a social way.

JB: Didn’t Google just announce that?

OV: But ours is pretty. (laughs)

JB: But seriously what do you have to say about what Google just announced?

OV: No deal news, but we have a lot of cool partner announcements. Google has been a great partner for a long time. Stay tuned.

JB: Let’s talk about Google more. They have a huge deal with MySpace, that expires next year. It’s big to have that money, but it may not have worked out that well for Google. Does your business hurt if that goes away?

OV: We’re really pleased with where are business is and where it’s going. We’ve always been good at monetizing our business. This is integrated marketing that no one else on the web does. And we’ve just scratched the surface. A key going forward is how you measure success. Our business doesn’t hinge on any one deal. News Corp believes that too.

JB: Jon Miller is your boss, and they’re building a business of their own: FIM, and MySpace is a part of it.

OV: Jon will talk more about it, but FIM is a big part of our monetization today.

JB: If Google goes away can that replace it?

OV: Again, we’re really good at monetization. There’s a lot of opportunity.

JB: Owen was an early member of Facebook. What does success eventually look like for MySpace now?

OV: We think we have all the building blocks, we just need to execute. If we do that we will realize the vision of content being socialized.

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