Posted on July 12, 2007
Filed Under Web 2.0 Kool Aid |
Which social network would Jesus use? If we’re to believe the hype, he’d definitely be on Facebook. Not only is it more wholesome (except maybe for “poking”), it’s also the coolest thing since Moses parted the Red Sea. But not so fast. MySpace is looking to “resurrect” its status as the world’s leading social network. How it plans to do this is truly amazing: it’s using facts and statistics neatly packaged into a press release.
And those facts and statistics are fairly impressive:
Total time spent on MySpace by users is three times its closest competitor and the site continues to lead in average minutes spent per person per month with more than 200 minutes on average, according to comScore.
A report issued yesterday by Forrester shows that nearly 80% of 12-17(a) year olds use MySpace at least weekly which is four times more than any other social network.
MySpace users visit the site 20% more often than the closet competitor in the social networking category.
MySpace users spend about 10 minutes more each month on the site than the closest competitor in the social networking category.
MySpace has 3 times more minutes on the site than its closet competitor in the social networking category.
MySpace gets 3 times more visitors on the average day than its closet competitor in the category.
This week, MySpace UK broke the 10 million active user mark according to comScore, meaning that approximately one in six people in the United Kingdom are on MySpace. As the leading social networking community in the UK, MySpace has seen its growth triple, up 286% from 3.6 million users since its launch in April 2006 to this week’s landmark milestone of 10.2 million users.
MySpace’s total unique U.S. visitors in June are 70.5 million, an increase of 1.6 million unique visitors compared to May. MySpace’s total U.S. page views in June are 46.4 billion, an increase of 2 billion total page views over May’s 44.4 billion, according to recently released comScore data.
According to comScore, 38% of people streaming video on the Internet in the U.S. are doing so on MySpace and the company’s total number of unique streamers has gone from 35 million in January to more than 50 million in April, a 40% increase in the past three months.
Of course, statistics are statistics, and the old saying “There are lies, damn lies and statistics” was not coined by an idiot. There is no shortage of ways to spin numbers, but as I’ve made clear in the past, I think it’s obvious that MySpace isn’t quite dying yet. In fact, it still looks like it’s thriving. Facebook, while thriving in its own right as a member of social networking’s holy trinity, has, in my opinion, captured the attention of Silicon Valley and the press not primarily because of its recent growth, but because of its “story.” The recent release of the Facebook platform (which some VCs are calling the “social operating system”) has added a new chapter that has completely infatuated many to the point that they are unable to objectively examine Facebook’s status in the market vis-à-vis MySpace. Who cares about things like usage growth and revenues when we have social operating systems and new economies?
Regardless of the fact that MySpace still clearly has a sizable lead in the general social networking market, it should not sit back. While its PR campaign is designed to resurrect its status with the press, it also needs to ensure that it doesn’t lose its standing with consumers. Companies that ignore competitive threats and feel too comfortable about their positions in the marketplace typically fall victim to arrogance and lack of innovation. Just ask General Motors. I believe that if MySpace implements the following initiatives, it won’t need divine intervention anytime soon:
- Release an API. While MySpace has enabled the embedding of “widgets” for some time, there’s no doubt that Facebook’s platform has captured the imaginations of many people, especially developers. Having a way to “officially” participate in Facebook has developers clamoring to build, and less-than-prudent VCs clamoring to invest. Developers will go where the users are, and if MySpace implements an API, developers will be chomping at the bit to build for MySpace too. While I of course have made it clear that the long-term significance of Facebook’s platform is questionable, there’s absolutely no reason that MySpace can’t and shouldn’t offer some kool aid of its own.
- Improve its platform. There is a significant amount of room for MySpace to improve reliability and to “clean up” interface issues. I do not believe that MySpace needs to implement an ascetic (or boring) interface like that of Facebook, as the flexibility that MySpace offers users is one of its primary attractions. Younger users in particular use this flexibility to express their individuality, no matter how horrid the manifestation of that expression is. There are, however, some interface issues that MySpace has no excuse for no resolving that would help improve the usability of the service. MySpace has access to some talent that is capable of helping, especially with its acquisition of Flextor.
- Police the network better. MySpace is inundated with spam. This is the natural result of its popularity. Any service that enables spammers to reach large numbers of people will naturally become a high-profile target. Facebook will need to deal with this too. That said, MySpace can and should do more to police its network. This involves both technology-based solutions and manual labor. If MySpace wants to ensure that its network provides the right type of environment for a thriving community, investment in this area is a requirement.
I believe MySpace is aware that it faces challenges, and the PR campaign it’s engaging in to resurrect its image is a reflection of that. The real question is whether MySpace will pray that press releases work miracles or whether the company is prepared to put in some hard work.
All of this said, I don’t believe that the biggest threat to MySpace is Facebook. Nor do I believe that Facebook’s biggest competitor is MySpace. Both face a common enemy: “the next big thing.” Social networking is still hot right now, but I personally believe that the general nature of networks like MySpace and Facebook puts them at risk of being short-term novelties. For those who believe that “the hearts and minds of the people who count have abandoned MySpace for Facebook” the logical question to ask is: if the people who count abandoned MySpace for Facebook, what’s going to stop them from abandoning Facebook for something else? Unfortunately for MySpace and Facebook, the fickle nature of Internet users is well-established and if “the next big thing” comes along, there may be no resurrection for either.