The new-look MySpace is fronted and partly owned by pop star Justin Timberlake, who unveiled the user experience (UX) via tweet earlier today. The site was bought by digital media company Specific Media for $35m (£21.9m) last year from previous owner NewsCorp.
MySpace says the relaunch will stay “true to its roots”, by empowering creatives such as musicians, photographers, filmmakers, designers and fans to “express themselves”.
The new site “oozes popular culture” and looks “sleek”, according to Guy Phillipson, CEO of the Internet Advertising Bureau, but he adds that the relaunch is risky in the current social networking market, which is dominated by big players such as Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.
“The key question is, can a new generation – or its old fans – fall in love with MySpace? The most famous case study [by comparison] is Apple: in 1992 it was a company in sharp decline, taking a battering from IBM and Microsoft – now it’s the most valuable company in the world,” he says.
While the site design appears “clean and modern”, senior innovations manager at global mobile marketing agency Somo Jon Kwan is interested to see how it renders across different devices to match the cross platform behaviour of MySpace’s young target audience.
He adds: “ With smartphone penetration at almost 60 per cent in the UK and tablet use on the rise, optimising and continuing the experience seamlessly across mobile and tablet is essential. First impressions of this image-led, modular approach are that it should lend itself well to responsive design, especially on tablets.”
If MySpace were to offer an innovative mobile advertising model alongside an improved mobile UX, it could give the site a competitive advantage against the biggest player in the market Facebook, which has previously admitted it needs to do more to make its mobile platform a success story for brands.
Anthony Mullen, senior analyst at Forrester, says the relaunch will see many marketers “dust the cobwebs” off what they thought MySpace was. He thinks the site’s success with brands will depend on how easy it will be to manage their MySpace profiles using existing external tools where primary UI is not Myspace – plus some added benefits.
“Location-based ad properties have not yet worked for Facebook but there’s lots MySpace can do to be relevant on mobile, especially for music,” he adds.
Hal Stokes, former head of music at Bebo and currently head of social media at digital agency Essence, says some brands may look to tap into MySpace’s new-found “cool” personality, as sites like Facebook and Google have become more of a “utility”. But while MySpace’s celebrity-backed music-led proposition may well serve brands such as Jack Daniels or Red Bull, he suggests that ultimately it is the sites with the most users who will attract the most ad revenue.
Stokes adds: “The danger is that brands go where the people are, if everyone’s on Facebook it’s not like brands will suddenly start using it just because it’s cool. The brilliance of Facebook is that you can create an app to serve your requirements of cool. There is a space for a lot of things [in the social media sector], but [successful sites will be those] that interweave with what’s already popular.”
MySpace currently has about 54 million users, according to comScore, lagging behind Facebook’s estimated 950 million and Twitter’s 500 million.
As a digital media company, owner Specific Media no doubt has ideas as to how it can impress agencies and brands with innovative ad offerings that suit the makeup of the new site, but MySpace’s fate lies firmly in the hands of the users and whether they are willing to make one more addition to their social media portfolio. Specific will be hoping Mr Timberlake has a lot of friends.