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Weekly Web Watch: Can MySpace Be Saved?


As News Corp. looks for a buyer, the also-ran of social media sites is trying for a comeback.


News Corp. (NWS) has declared that MySpace, once the darling of its digital strategy, is yesterday's news. But even as its corporate owner prepares to sell at a loss and walk away, some of its surviving staffers are trying to retool and revive MySpace as a personal entertainment hub for a young audience.

The early numbers, since the MySpace relaunch last October, can hardly be called encouraging. It has lost another 30 percent of its unique users since then.

But if the site can escape comparison with Facebook, maybe it has a shot. After all, 38 million users isn't a bad number (unless your site had 110 million a year ago, as MySpace did, or your rival has 500 million, as Facebook now claims.) In fact, Myspace came in 54th in unique users in Google's latest "top 1,000" web sites worldwide.

It's hard to believe that less than two years ago, in July 2009, Facebook first edged past MySpace in popularity. It went downhill fast from there, and the pioneering social network now joins the sad list of new media startups that were snapped up for big bucks by old media, and then blown to smithereens.

Having paid $580 million for it in 2005, News Corp. reportedly hopes to get more than $100 million for what's left of MySpace. Online game creator Zynga was briefly interested, but thought that was way too high a price, according to BusinessInsider.

Others who have expressed interest in MySpace, according to various sources, include MySpace co-founder Chris De Wolfe; its current CEO Mike Jones; music video syndication service Vevo; Chinese Internet portal Tencent; private equity firm Gores Group LLC; and Criterion Capital Partners LLC, the owner of social networking site Bebo.

The site they are considering buying is no longer primarily a social network. MySpace is trying to reinvent itself as a customizable entertainment portal, loaded with videos, music and entertainment news targeted at an audience of 18 to 34-year-olds. Special interest areas like horror movies, comedy or reality television are updated by "curators," hyperactive users whose posts are featured prominently on its home page.

In Depth:

In Brief:

Deal Or No Deal For Facebook In China: Shares in Baidu (BIDU) rose 5% to an all-time high in early trading Monday after widespread reports that the Chinese search engine company had signed a deal with Facebook to create a social networking site in China. But late Monday, spokesmen for both companies declined to comment, and an unnamed source sought to squelch the rumor of a done deal. Officially, Facebook isn't going much further than an admission that Mark Zuckerberg didn't visit China in December just because he had a hankering to see the Great Wall.

Google Cleared For Travel: Google's (GOOG) proposed purchase of travel search company ITA has received formal approval from the U.S. Department of Justice, with conditions. Google must continue to license and support ITA's software, QPX, which drives searches for air fares. And, the agency will track Google's compliance with its conditions for five years.

The review was requested by travel sites including Microsoft's (MSFT) Bing, Travelocity, Kayak, and Expedia.

In Investor's Business Daily, analysts say they doubt that Google has any intention of competing with those travel sites, or Priceline (PCLN). Although Google has not made its plans for ITA public, it is expected to incorporate ITA information into its search results rather than offer booking services directly.

Desperate Days For Online Marketers:
Online advertising agencies and their clients are firing dollars in all directions lately, and many of them are getting precious little back for their money, some recent reports suggest.

  • Marketers are pouring more money and time into social media sites, though most have no idea what, if anything, they're getting out of it, says a report in AdAge.

  • Some experts are beginning to suspect that real people just don't want to be Facebook friends with a corporation. But some companies, including Sony (SNE), Gap (GPS) and Red Bull, seem to have succeeded where many have failed. Fortune explains how.

  • A new Forrester Research study finds that Facebook people "like" a company only if they have to in order to score a coupon, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Lasting through April 15, 100% of the donations made to The Ruby Peck Foundation for Children's Education will be channeled to the children of Japan as they attempt to find their footing following this natural disaster; and to kick off this drive, we'll pledge $5000 to get it started. Please do what you can, as it will add up, and thanks.

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