MySpace Makes Subtle Shifts to Emphasize Video

We wrote earlier about News Corp’s unease with the Google-YouTube acquisition. For the last few weeks News Corp has been engaging in a one-sided PR war with YouTube – from News Corp. COO Peter Chernin’s recent comments that 60-70% of YouTube traffic comes from MySpace (YouTube says this is incorrect and that MySpace only refers about 5% of total video traffic to YouTube) to Wall Street Journal articles that state News Corp. made a last ditch effort to acquire YouTube before the Google deal closed. Given the importance of video clips (both user generated and copyrighted works), News Corp. is uneasy that their biggest competitor is also their biggest source of revenue on MySpace.

This weekend, a subtle change occurred on MySpace’s homepage and MySpace user pages that makes MySpace Videos much more prominent and accessible. The top-left of the homepage now has 4 videos that entice users to start viewing videos at MySpace. The user profile pages now have a section called Video Space that automatically displays a video if the user has one uploaded. Under the video in the Video Space, viewers have the option of adding the video to their profile, just like users can currently add music from any of the MySpace Music artists to their profile – further individualizing themselves. Viewers also have the option of commenting on the video with text remarks (YouTube allows both text and video comments).

These changes should have a significant effect on the MySpace video usage. Until now, MySpace hasn’t really focused on engaging users to use their video service. Users that didn’t know about MySpace Video will almost certainly see it now. Plus, MySpace Video is so easy now — users upload their videos and the videos automatically appear on their MySpace profile page; whereas with YouTube, you have to upload the video, grab the HTML embed code, and paste that somewhere in your MySpace profile.

MySpace could at anytime block YouTube videos from displaying on MySpace user profiles (just as they blocked javascript and outbound linking in flash widgets) — forcing users to use the MySpace video upload system. Of course that wouldn’t come without risk — a backlash from users could occur, similar to what Facebook recently experienced. Given that MySpace users have invested so much time in creating their profiles and building up their friends lists, the majority of MySpace users would likely end up using MySpace’s video system, rather than jumping ship for an alternative social networking website.

According to recent HitWise metrics based on market share of visits, YouTube is the #1 online video website with 45.46% market share and Videos is #2 with 22.99%. Whereas comScore reports that MySpace is #1 based on video streams and unique users.

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Steve Poland, a guest contributor. Steve is the founder and web strategy consultant for Vested Ventures, a firm specializing in website consulting, internet marketing, and high-end custom web development. We hope to have Steve write for us on a regular basis.