The Only Chance For MySpace Is To Be Free Of News Corp.

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MySpace, once the King of the Internet, lost its second CEO yesterday in less than a year. The response from press has, rightfully, been bleak.

Owen Van Natta, who was celebrated as the savior of MySpace when he was hired, was apparently fired over something as simple as trying to control his executive team. His Chief Product Officer Jason Hirschhorn has been telling friends for months that he’d soon be leaving MySpace. We wrote that he was on his way out last week. Hirschhorn’s comment the next day to us was “I was sleeping and just woke up to see [TechCrunch] unfortunately in the middle of someone’s game.”

Apparently Hirschhorn was right. There was a game going on, and he won. Or at least he half won. He’s now co-president with Mike Jones, previously MySpace’s COO. And both of these guys report directly to News Corp. Digital Chief Jon Miller.

But all that’s old news now. Today is a new day. Let’s take stock of the current MySpace situation (page view and unique visitor stats are Comscore worldwide), compared to nine months ago when all of the guys mentioned above started their jobs:

  • Unique visitors nine months ago: 125 million
  • Unique visitors today: 122 million (-3%)
  • Facebook unique visitor growth in same period: 48%, to 469 million
  • Page views nine months ago: 35 billion
  • Page views today: 20 billion (-44%)
  • Facebook page view growth in same period: 118%, to 193 billion

MySpace also failed to launch a single new product of note. Which was apparently Van Natta’s chief complaint about Hirschhorn, who was the Chief Product Officer before being promoted yesterday.

MySpace now effectively has three CEOs – Hirschhorn, Jones and Miller. And none of them can likely get anything drastic done, even in the unlikely event that they were to agree on what that drastic thing is.

A company that is hemorrhaging users this badly, and soon to lose their biggest source of revenue, can’t afford to have leadership by committee which is then subject to veto by the corporate parent.

A further concern is the fact that MySpace can’t offer lucrative stock options to employees, since they are a subsidiary of a public company. The best engineers won’t go anywhere near MySpace.

MySpace’s only hope, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating here, is to be spun off from News Corp. into an independent entity. They need an intelligent management structure (no co-presidents) filled with enthusiastic executives (who don’t trash the company in public) and they need a radical product plan. And they need to be private so they can give employees stock options.

MySpace is just an afterthought for News Corp. An unwanted step child. MySpace, once the King of the Internet, deserves better.

Below are some charts showing How MySpace has been crushed by Facebook during Van Natta’s reign across all metrics: visitors, pageviews, and time spent. Note that the charts below measure the U.S. only, as opposed to the worldwide numbers above, but the trends are the same:

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