MySpace rolls dice with site overhaul

MySpace plans to overhaul its social-networking service, as the site rolls the dice in an effort to win back users.

MySpace rolls dice with site overhaul

Speaking at the company’s Beverly Hills headquarters, Mike Jones, who took over as co-president last month with Jason Hirschhorn, pulled the curtain back on a new version of the site that will be rolled out in installments over the coming weeks.

The changes recast MySpace around its music and media content, with features such as the ability to listen to a music playlist based on songs that other MySpace users are sharing in their stream of updates.

The goal is to spur growth among new users and to lure back users that have departed. “We do not want to stay at 100 million (users) or 120 million. We want to grow to 200 million or 300 million,” said Hirschhorn, though he declined to give a time frame for achieving those numbers.

We do not want to stay at 100 million (users) or 120 million. We want to grow to 200 million or 300 million

However, Hirschhorn admitted that even within MySpace some employees have lost the will to keep fighting. “We are at the point now where we need believers,” he said, noting that site had encouraged various individuals not fully committed to the cause to leave.

The need for faith speaks to the scope of the challenge facing MySpace. With competition from booming social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and Google Inc jumping into the fray, MySpace hopes to become the first social network to regain its mass appeal.

MySpace had 119.6 million unique visitors worldwide in January 2010, down 7.4% year-over-year (though up from its November low of 108.1 million), according to ComScore. While those seem like respectable numbers, Facebook says it now counts 400 million active users.

Hirschhorn, a former executive with MTV, joined MySpace in April 2009 as chief product officer, part of a new management team that brought in Jones as chief operating officer and Owen Van Natta as CEO. Less than 10 months later, Van Natta is gone, due to what a source close to the company said was a personality conflict among the trio. Van Natta couldn’t be reached for comment.

The two new co-presidents would not comment on the shake-up, but said the revamp of the site now being introduced is in keeping with the strategy all three executives devised over the past 11 months, including the August 2009 acquisition of internet music sharing service iLike.

Analysts say building on MySpace’s strength in music and entertainment is a sensible strategy, though some wonder whether the company will be able to create a unique offering amid a raft of rivals with similar goals

“When you look at the other social networks that have faltered, they end up being a special play for a particular culture,” said Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at Altimeter Group. He cited Friendster, a social-networking pioneer that lost ground to Facebook and MySpace and now caters to users in Southeast Asia.

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