MySpace was once a giant. Back in the mid-2000s everyone had an account before Facebook came on the scene.
Then News Corp. got involved.
There is much to be learned from their decline. MySpace is a perfect example of Growth for Growth’s Sake. News Corp. insisted on not iterating the product due to the $300M revenue deal they had inked with Google.
Unfortunately, not being willing to Slaughter their Golden Gooses led to a quick decline. Not iterating a digital product with strong competition and low barriers to entry is the quickest way to capitulate into irrelevance.
Zuckerberg’s great strength, say his one-time rivals from Myspace, was that he and his team were focused on product development and innovation while Myspace had become too concerned with revenue and meeting traffic targets of its Google deal.
“The technology fell behind and it just shows that even when you have a massive user base you still need to offer something new to keep people engaged,” said BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield.
Around this time, the Google agreement, which had been hailed as a major coup by Chernin and Levinsohn as well as Wall Street, started to be viewed by Myspace executives as a double-edged sword. The Google deal required a certain number of Myspace user visits on a regular basis for Google to pay Myspace its guaranteed $300 million a year for three years. That reduced flexibility as Myspace couldn’t experiment with its own site without forfeiting revenue.
“It was a good deal in the short-term but in the long term it ended up not being so good,” said a third former Myspace executive close to advertising sales. “We were incentivized to keep page views very high and ended up having too many ads plus too many pages, making the site less easy to use than a site like Facebook.”
The suggestion was made to the top brass at Fox Interactive that they sacrifice some of the page views. They refused, according to two of the former Myspace executives. Quarterly revenue targets for the parent company were simply too pressing to lose advertising dollars while engineers tinkered with the site.
Once they finally decided to change paths and focus on the music market, it was too late. Even then, their heart wasn’t in it. Murdoch was out to make money, not build a great product.
MySpace, like many other acquired startups, had amazing potential. It’s amazing how News Corp. and other large companies manage to screw it up.