May 26, 2006
Rupert Murdoch better hurry up and close a big advertising deal with Google or Microsoft, because the bloom may be falling from the MySpace rose.
The Wichita Eagle got the scoop last Sunday: "For Teens: MySpace.com Is So Last Year." The article begins:
When it became all the rage to have a MySpace page, Luly Larios joined the social networking Web site. She rarely posts on her MySpace page, though. Instead, the high school sophomore logs on to Bebo.com, a site for high school and college students. The interface is simple, the graphics are better, and she finds more of her friends from school there.
Teens like Larios are increasingly finding other social networks that meet their needs - and that aren't as well known to their parents.
"And that aren't as well known to their parents": If that doesn't strike fear into the hearts of the MySpace proprietors, I don't know what will. The young are capricious, particularly when it comes to the places where they hang out. Trying to hold them in one spot is like trying to hold water in your hands. As I wrote last fall:
My guess is that online hot spots, like their real-world counterparts, will go in and out of fashion fairly quickly - and that those betting on their staying power will be disappointed. One reason is simply the fickleness of the young; as soon as a place gets too popular (and the bald-headed guys with backwards baseball caps start showing up), the trendsetters head for the exits, and the crowd soon follows.
There's another shard of anecdotal evidence that the MySpace backlash may have begun, with kids choosing to congregate at newer sites like Bebo. And Scott Karp offers some statistical evidence that MySpace traffic may have peaked. (Some believe the numbers simply point to a seasonality in demand, which would itself be interesting.) I'm not ready to write my "The death of MySpace" post quite yet, but I'm keeping the poison pen warm.
UPDATE: MySpace may be looking a little weak in the knees at the moment, but Hitwise reports that MySpace sends more traffic to Google than any other site and that - get this - it accounted for a whopping 8.2 percent of total Google traffic during the first week of this month. That's gotta be worth something.
In the days of cheap hardware and open source software, technology can't be an excuse for myspace.com or others to not clutter up its offering for a target market in order to capture new markets. Google has paved the way by showing the success of focusing only on the biggest pain points (get results fast, display them without any ad clutter). Why aren't others learning? Any insights into how a company can:
1. Identify key needs of the target market
2. Structure itself to serve these needs
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for multiple markets
You are right Nick, Kids are incredibly fickle and move very quickly. I follow what they are doing by asking my kids who are now all on Bebo. However in the meantime MySpace has become a phenomenon which in the future will be populated by the bald headed guys. So you can write the death of MySpace post, like many of your posts it will be correct in spirit if not in fact :)
MySpace's ongoing popularity is not a binary issue with a "yes" or "no" answer. Given so many millions have put so much energy into their MySpace personas, it would require incredible cognitive dissonance for the masses to suddenly flee. Like any major social outlet, it will inevitably have ups and downs in the future, like NBC and ABS, or like any popular shopping mall. The real action is at a lower level than MySpace as a whole. Like a particular TV show (The Apprentice, for ex) or a shop at a mall (those annoying make a bear stores, for ex), different sub-communities will inevitably rise and fall in their MySpace usage, some with widely varying velocities. MySpace's challenge is to understand those different sub-communities and understand what keeps them coming back. Undoubtedly, new social networks will continue to spring up and target niche groups, competing with MySpace for its sub-communities. MySpace and its challengers are in uncharted media territory, relying on their users to produce content. MySpace has a major advantage as the frontrunner today, not only owning the users but owning the data that reveals user motivations. It would take a massive bout of incompetence for them to botch this advantage. Even then, it would take a long, long time for the currnet momentum of MySpace usership to fade. Count on a future of multiple social networks with a distribution similar to today's search portals. Challengers will come and go, but leaders will be increasingly hard to unseat.
It comes down to two things IMO - attracting and keeping users. MySpace attracted people because it was the "cool thing". The cool factor definitely begins to wane for the teen market when something gets as much mainstream and parental attention as MySpace has. They obviously have a large mass of users and more signing up because of the current base which gets you so far but then you have to move to stickyness.
What do they have to stick people to the site? user-base and time invested in building pages. I'm not sure if that's enough with the bulk of their market who have a lot of time on their hands and will do almost anything to be cool.
I believe demographics/age plays a big role here. It would be interesting to see some stats on the average age of active people on MySpace. My guess is that quite a few fall into a 3-4 year age range so there is a natural migration of people. Also history probably doesn't matter as much for them as posting the latest info. This means moving and replacing isn't a big burden because they don't have to replicate a lot anyway. They'll be more interested in posting new pictures of themselves and their friends, new stories, etc.
Will be interesting to see how this plays out...
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