Tag Archives: MySpace

Good, if painful, signal from New MySpace Leadership

Today announcements of sharp people cuts at MySpace hit and hit hard.  This is a painful step, and my sympathies go out to any employee impacted.  I take no pleasure or glee in poking fun at this.  I’m sure that in the coming days, plenty of press will focus on more salacious elements of the moves, the pain inside MySpace, whether offices are remaining open, etc.  The story of growing so quickly, getting bought by News Corporation, followed by the rapid flattening of growth–all within the span of a few years–is just too much of a story to pass up for many.

That’s not my focus.  Instead, I’d like to write and applaud Owen Van Natta and his exec team for moving quickly to cut down while they try to figure out what to do.  In a post I wrote upon the announcement of Mr. Van Natta’s appointment to the role, I suggested that I’d be watching for 3 things–(1) a focus on scenarios, (2) execution, and (3) any cultural phenomenon starting in MySpace versus the other tools (Twit, FBK, etc.).  Given that it’s been less than one month, I’d say that taking the step of cutting back this fast and this hard is an example of execution.  It’s a painful sign, but a good one. I’d not expected such decisiveness here to be honest.

I think this is a good move, not just because it helps signal an execution focus.  I think it also helps the team that remains get hunkered down to figure out what the heck they’re actually going to go do.  The features and scenarios that might help them get ahead are not ones that should take tons of people.  Instead, they need a tight focus with highly motivated superstars–hard to do that when you’ve got wave after wave of layoffs.  Better to just get the cut done big and fast.  So kudos to the leaders of MySpace for having the courage to get after this fast.

MySpace still has miles to go before it sleeps.  But I’d say that this is on the whole a good sign, and I’ll be interested to see what’s next with them.

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What I’ll watch for with MySpace: progress on bite-size chunks

Tech Crunch’s article, MySpace Is In Real Trouble If These Page View Declines Don’t Reverse, provides a sobering view of the challenge in front of MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta and his newly installed exec team.

I’m going to assume that TC’s numbers are accurate, and I’m in general agreement with the conclusion—momentum is not on MySpace’s side.   This is a big task, as TC asserts, never been done successfully. 

Still, as with any big task, its important to split it up into smaller, bite sized chunks.  There are ton of things that could be focused on to read the tea leaves as to whether MySpace is making progress or not.  To make things simple, here are the 3 key bite size chunks I’ll be watching for to assess whether MySpace is making progress:

  1. Execs speaking about and delivering on useful, concrete customer scenarios.  I remarked in a prior post how vague and nebulous an ex-MySpace Chairman’s Richard Rosenblatt advice was, compared with a much more concrete, user-focused entrepreneur like Joel Spolsky.  This was a bit unfair as Rosenblatt shouldn’t give concrete advice.  At the same time, when the exec team now speaks, I’ll compare their words with his.  If its as vague and general, and it doesn’t have specific concrete customer scenarios that appear appealing, then it’ll be more of the same.  Creating value for users is vital here, as with anywhere else.  Watch for this—I’d say within 45 days, there should be relatively clear statements on what customer scenarios excite the execs and what concretely they’re doing.  If its general “own the spaces MySpace can own,” blather, then I’d say that’s a big red flag.   
  2. Execution.  Mr. Van Natta has assembled a strong core group of execs around him.  This is a great start.  It’ll now be interesting to watch what they deliver in terms of features, in specific timelines, relative to update cycles from Facebook, Twitter and others.  Given the inherent pressure of lost momentum, with the pressure that must be coming from News, the MySpace execs will get pulled in many different directions.  I’ll watch for what they are able to ship in specific timeframes.  If there isn’t anything substantial product-wise done by time school starts up in the fall, I’d say that this is a sign of real trouble. 
  3. (Any) cultural phenomenon created, fueled and fanned on MySpace.  The page view and traffic numbers won’t turn overnight.  What does and can shift quickly is passion around some trend or phenomenon or whatever.  A band must break there, a movie must be discovered there—the thing we all are talking about must be found once on MySpace.  This has happened on MySpace in the past I think, but now, this discovery happens other places more often—FBK(the election or the 25 things phenomenon) or Twitter (Sully’s plane).  When MySpace gets mentioned at lal these days, its generally only as one of several social media services where stuff like this happens.  MySpace needs to be central to some of these experiences.  If in 6 months there hasn’t been one of these, then I’d say its a sign of continuing difficulties for MySpace. 

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Stackoverflow & MySpace : A study in (stark) contrasts

Two posts over the last 24 hours caught my eye due to the stark contrasts between them.  Imagine you knew nothing about the two companies, just had the video below on StackOverflow or the TechCrunch article on MySpace—which one would you be betting is ramping up on momentum, and which one is basically without clear direction? 

The moral of this story is very simple: companies that articulate concrete, useful end-user scenarios do well; those that don’t struggle. 

Case 1: user-scenario centric.  Joel Spolsky gave a talk at Google’s campus on StackOverflow.com “a free question and answer site built by developers for developers that has fostered a strong and committed online community in under one year.”   

It’s an informative talk, embedded below.  I could happily recommend it to any entrepreneur, as it is does such an effective job walking through the problem Joel saw, the competitive landscape, and how his team worked on StackOverflow as a solution.  It made me interested enough to go to the site and play around – even though I have nearly zero business being on a site for developers. 

 

Contrast this with TechCrunch’s article Former MySpace Chairman Richard Rosenblatt’s Advice To The New Executive Team.  While Rosenblatt goes to lengths to describe why he is hesitant to give advice, he then dispenses with “general thoughts on where MySpace can push forward.”  (BTW, don’t you love how people say they don’t want to give advice, and then they do so?!?)

Anyway, Rosenblatt’s advice is admittedly high level, and that’s probably the right tone.  Still, Mr. Rosenblatt’s core thrusts are pretty lame, even for general advice.  His list:

  • Own the spaces that only MySpace can
  • Transform your unique UGC into marketable media
  • Listen to the community and let them guide YOU

Nowhere in his article is there one mention of a single user scenario that is at all interesting to me as a user and consumer of social media.  Yikes.  I get that its not his place to offer “operational” advice.  But still, when someone who’s been affiliated closely with a company, as Mr. Rosneblatt has, and they cannot articulate a single user scenario, then that to me is a sign of real trouble. 

I’m a Rupert Murdoch fan, mainly because he’s built such an amazing track record, and he’s singularly unbowed by the troubles his industry faces.  I’m hopeful that his team at MySpace will hit the ground running and create fantastically interesting end user scenarios that would get me and others interested and involved in the franchise that they’ve created. 

 

 

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Does MySpace Really Need a Chief Revenue Officer?

MySpace pulled trigger on Owen Van Natta to run MySpace.  

While I don’t know Mr. Van Natta, my quick take reaction and question centers on whether a former Chief Revenue Officer of Facebook is really going to fix what’s ailing MySpace.  IOW, is the revenue problem really the issue that’s highest priority to MySpace?  My take—absolutely not. 

MySpace’s growth has flat-lined, dead in the water relative to Facebook, to say nothing of Twitter.  The site built for teens as the cool hang-out and spot for media now looks bloated, slow and niched. 

So my question is, how’s a business guy really going to fix that?  What ails MySpace, IMHO, is far more product related – it’s an SNS that appeals to a younger demographic, and isn’t tracking to pull in older users in the same way that FBK and TWIT are.  This isn’t a business problem, it’s a product problem.

Scarier still, I’ve read elsewhere the argument that MySpace needs to be the SNS for Music.  Perhaps this is why you bring in a Revenue Officer.  My first take is that this is a dumb idea—take a MySpace, a flat lining SNS and combine it with a dying industry.  Good luck there!  Maybe as an encore Mr. Van Natta could combine AIG and GM.  🙂

It’s not at all obvious what the next steps are for MySpace, and how it might speak to a broader set of users.  Their product doesn’t.  The business strategy of pulling in media like music doesn’t resonate with me at all to a level of scale that’d be needed to make an impact.  Sounds like a mess.  My bet would be on MySpace getting sold in next 2 years at >50% markdown to acquisition price. 

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