Visits to MySpace UK have halved in 6 months say sources

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The number of visitors to MySpace UK has halved in the last six months, TechCrunch Europe has learned, leading to a fresh round of layoffs at the London office of the social networking site.

According to internal figures that we’ve seen, monthly visits to MySpace UK are down from a peak of just under 10 million at the start of the year to around 5m as of the end of June 2010. If indeed this is the case – and we have every reason to believe the stats are authentic – it would appear to show a pretty staggering decline.

MySpace declined to comment on the details of this story aside from issuing the following statement: “We don’t publicly share internal data but these figures aren’t accurate.” However, we stand by our well placed sources.

Furthermore, in a bid to mask the decline in its userbase, our sources say that MySpace UK has been using a strategy of buying up cheap and sometimes unrelated Google keyword ads in order to “generate dirty traffic” to bump up the publicly accessible comScore stats (see below). Ironically, according to our sources, Facebook.com is also now the third biggest referrer of traffic to the site.

Independent measurement service comScore shows a similar decline in MySpace UK’s traffic, albeit over the past 12 months, although it’s worth noting that comScore reports unique visitors, while we’re referring to monthly visits as a whole, not uniques.

Symptomatic of a decline in traffic, we’ve learned that MySpace UK has let a further seven staff members go, reducing head count to roughly 43. At its peak, the social network’s London office employed 150 people, although as part of a major restructuring in June 2009 in which the company cut 300 international staff and closed at least 4 offices outside the US, this had already been brought down to approximately 50.

In this latest round of cuts, MySpace UK has dispensed of the remaining “most expensive non-business critical staff”, according to our source. These include a designer, the site’s editor, several of the sales team, and the events manager.

We also understand that the company has let go of its music manager and as a result the UK wing of MySpace Music, which is stated as being the main area of growth for the social network, is now being managed by “the most junior member”. (Update: MySpace has got in contact to deny that this is the case). It’s also at a time when artists and bands, once the mainstay of MySpace, are reportedly investing more time on Twitter and Facebook.

Unsurprising, it sounds like staff morale at MySpace UK isn’t exactly sky high at the moment – layoffs and a massive decline in growth tend to have that effect – although our sources paint an even worse outlook.

“The existing members of the team are now left under great stress to do everything whilst senior management continue to twiddle their thumbs waiting for someone to turn the lights off”, says one source.

And while waiting till the lights are turned off sounds a bit overly pessimistic, the bigger picture at MySpace isn’t much better. Having already given up the social networking crown to Facebook, its lucrative search deal with Google has seemingly expired (the company has yet to announce how they plan to replace that revenue), and there continues to be turmoil at the very top.

Is a turnaround possible? Our very own Mike Arrington doesn’t think that’s likely to happen as long as MySpace remains part of News Corp., which purchased the social network for $580m in July 2005. Instead, he says that MySpace needs to be spun off into a private company if it’s to have a fighting chance of recapturing its old glory.

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