News Corp and MySpace — pay attention, everybody

The latest issue of Wired has an outstanding cover story on Rupert Murdoch and MySpace. I think this should be must-reading for every broadcaster, because it rightly raises the matter of a business model and rightly answers that there isn’t one — yet. Spencer Reiss wrote the piece, which references the standard options of advertising and subscription services.

As lucrative as those ideas may be, they’re based on an old media conception of audiences as consumers. But MySpace members are something different: They’re participants.(Emphasis mine) The site’s greatest value isn’t connecting people to products, people to information, or eyeballs to advertisers. It’s connecting people to people…MySpace multiplies the value of each member by connecting one to another. It’s a virtual nation of people instant-messaging their friends a link to Gnarls Barkley’s new track and decorating their pages with Family Guy clips. And that’s where MySpace could strike gold: It lets News Corp. host the cultural conversation.
This is an insightful piece of knowledge that those who are stuck in the rut of trying to make this quarter’s sales projections are unable to use. That’s too bad, because money always follows eyeballs, regardless of how or where they’re gathered. Something WILL become of this, although I’m not alone in suggesting it won’t be a traditional media model.
MySpace fits into an old media portfolio like a skateboard in a Manhattan boardroom. Even though News Corp. has a reputation for edgy content — The Simpsons, 24, American Idol, even Fox News — its business model is as old-fashioned as they come. The company earns its daily bread by luring people with carefully crafted content and selling their eyeballs to advertisers. MySpace, on the other hand, is out of control. Indeed, its core value is that users rule. They write what they like, stream their choice of music, link to their favorite sites, turn their profiles into HTML Niagaras of cascading style sheets. Hence the question: How do you manage MySpace without ruining the site’s irresistible free-for-all?
Maybe you don’t, at least not in any conventional, top-down sense. That IS the question, though, and so far Murdoch has been smart to approach it cautiously. It is the anti-establishment nature of teens that brought them to MySpace in the first place, and it can just as easily move them to abandon the place.


  1. Is that anarchy essential to MySpace’s success?

  2. I guess that would depend on the version of “success” being used. Yes, if we’re talking about the site succeeding for users — no if we’re talking about making money the old-fashioned way.

    Good question.

  3. Never forget that the only color that matters in capitaism is GREEN. Does News Corp know how how to make money on MySpace? Not yet as the article proves however it was smart enough to grab it which leads me to believe that it is smart enough to make money on it.

    Glad to see that other thinkers like myself read WIRED.

  4. Some interesting reactions to that article.

    The Register does its usual “the Artists are being screwed” slant.

    The BBC’s Matt Locke from takes a more interesting approach, particularly about how NewsCorp are looking at monetising the space.

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