It’s far from a secret that Myspace has been in trouble for some time. Huge recent layoffs have been accompanied by talk that the company’s future was being judged in quarters, not years.
Now parent company News Corp says that it’s looking to sell all, or at least some, of Myspace. As Paid Content reports, COO Chase Carey explained yesterday, “The new MySpace has been very well received by the market and we have some very encouraging metrics. But the plan to allow MySpace to reach its full potential may be best achieved under a new owner.”
There’s little surprise that Myspace might be offloaded, but the real question is, who would buy it? New Corp says it has had a lots of interest to date from others interested in investing in, or purchasing the service before it has even been formally put up for sale. That reportedly includes “Industry players, financial players, foreign to domestic”. Up against the Facebook behemoth though, why will anyone want to shell out for the social network of yesteryear?
The Bebo comparison
Bebo is a good place to look for a comparison. Like Myspace, it was a hit social network acquired by a big media firm (AOL in this case) for big bucks ($850m). Just two years later it was offloaded to merchant banking company Criterion Capital Partners for a reported $10m. Since then, Criterion has been investing in new features for the service, such as group video chat but it’s still too early to tell whether Bebo can fight back to regain the popularity it enjoyed at its peak.
Bebo wouldn’t have to do reach its previous heights of course, as long as it turns a profit Criterion will presumably be happy with its investment. Founder Michael Birch, who has now rejoined Bebo’s board, told The Telegaph in December, “There are lots of gaps in what Facebook provides. It doesn’t provide media or lots of games – apart from its apps. Nor are users able to change their profile that much. The site stays largely the same – whereas on Bebo we are going offer users an online location they can really personalise. Bebo is going to be the social network that offers lots of content, games, and just be a place of fun online. That’s what’s missing from the social network space – some fun.”
Myspace’s brand problem
So, could the same future await Myspace? The problem is that, probably much more than Bebo, its brand is tainted by the smell of failure. Once users started abandoning the service, it quickly became labelled as the social network of the past. Even if Myspace was taken under the wing of a new owner and revamped into something amazing, the Myspace name would probably do more harm than good. Wouldn’t it be better just to launch a new service from scratch?
Of course, News Corp hasn’t formally set the wheels in motion for a sale yet, but it’s clearly working towards that. As much as the tech press has written Myspace off, the company does say it’s seen interest from potential buyers and investors (although, hey, they would say that). Watching the possible suitors emerge should give us an idea of the kind of future Myspace might have....