I started this blog as a place to post reviews on new technology, and revisions by old technology in attempts to make them new again. It’s been a while since I’ve written a post here, as I’ve been busy with my day job — but the “pre-pre launch” of the
new, new, newEST MySpace has me inspired.
A long time ago, I was a huge Myspace fan. It was miles ahead of Friendster and LiveJournal, providing a place to connect with a lot of friends, share photos, and meet new people around interests. Then, as we all know, the site became riddled with animated GIFs for backgrounds, very little serious conversation (unless you count setting up your next hookup “serious conversation”) and Facebook took advantage of lowering IQ of the overall MySpace population with its introduction of a clean, simple, and less in-your-face hookup planning UI.
Myspace never figured out how to compete with Facebook. In the midst of all of this, it was purchased by News Corporation, and it appeared it might be revamped and saved, but the site’s loyal users were adamant about the sanctity of their blinking, clashing, boobs everywhere web 2.0 hangout. The years went by and Myspace’s glow of adolescent decollage faded, its musicians kept profiles but found better places to share their music, and traffic dropped off. In November 2012, Myspace was ranked 233rd by total web traffic. Not terrible, but certainly not the site that once held the promise to grow to the most-visited site on the Internet. In 2011, News Corporation sold Myspace for $35M (down from that $580M that they paid for it a few years earlier), to the advertising network Specific Media and Justin Timberlake. It isn’t surprising that the company now wants to return to its music discovery roots.
What Should We Do With Our Punk Kid That Can’t Get a Job?
Ok, so naturally a site that still has a sizable amount of traffic, but is losing users by the day, is going to do something substantial to turn its business around. For Myspace, that either meant attempting to copy Facebook (and setting itself up for lawsuits for infringing on all their social networking patents), or doing something different. So Myspace execs decided the one area they could get right that Facebook isn’t all over is mobile. They redesigned the site once again, this time – supposedly – to be ideally set up for tablet users. To be fair, I haven’t tried the site on a tablet yet (I don’t actually own one.) But the web experience leaves much to be desired.
Myspace also wants to be a media discovery site, bringing it back to its original roots as a place to fan musicians and learn about new artists. It appears to be trading in a more traditional social network style design with a user experience where you can “add people or media” you like to your “library.”
The initial browsing experience left me rather confused. Only my experience as a loyal user of both Spotify and Twitter gave me some foundation for what this site is trying to do. They want to be Spotify – a music discovery service – but bigger, to compete against Spotify and the other music discovery apps. And with video discovery. And editorial content that is really challenging to browse on a computer.
What is Myspace’s secret sauce?
While at first glance, it looks like they’re banking on exclusive content and celebrities, it appears the big opportunity for Myspace is getting social media discovery and sharing right, while focusing equally on the web experience and the mobile experience. The way the site looks right now (at least on the web), I wouldn’t put my money on a lot of success, but that could change. There is definitely room for music and media discovery, especially as the smartphone and tablet market continue to grow.
The concept here, which takes a while to figure out, is that every person is a curator of content. They are betting on status as a way to encourage people to share, without any real gamification features enabled to highlight contributions. It isn’t clear how one can gain followers here, instead the experience is really about the musicians/creatives and their fanbase. Still, everyday users such as myself can post status updates (how could the site even call itself social without a status update box?) But they aren’t looking for any old “what are you doing” or “what’s happening” status update – they are looking for media-centric posts to help curate the content and provide valuable data that I’m betting will be used later for recommendations and eventually for targeted advertising. Like Facebook, you can add a photo and location with your status update, but you can also easily add a song. How often do you want to share a song with your status update?
And I…..eeeeeee…. I …. will always love you
Great, I can share a song with my status post. That may lure musically inclined types to Myspace, but not enough to lure them away from Facebook.
What’s interesting is that Myspace appears to be going after a mix of hipsters and the younger generations who have shunned Facebook. The people who are not interested in sharing their latest personal status updates, or seeing the 2000000th picture of their classmate’s baby. And they assume these people have the attention spans for a Twitter-like experience but want it to have more pictures and look really nice on their tablets. (OMG it has HORIZONTAL SCROLLING on the web and it can go on forever and ever and ever and ever… just keep scrolling down for it to scroll left… gah this is making me dizzy.)
So, in short, new Myspace is what I’ve been saying Spotify should be for a long time, with a terrible UI for web. If I wasn’t already using Spotify, I may be drawn to the fact that, for now at least, I can access a giant library of music for free (I’m guessing they will have to start charging at some point.) But the UI for web is uncomfortable to say the least. I’m sure they’d argue that their new audience is going to come from mobile and no one uses the web anymore (I mean, come on, I should just be grateful they didn’t design the entire site to process only via the chip that the cool kids have implanted in their brains) but to gain mass adoption, the web user experience needs some help. Also, they could learn a thing or two from Spotify and how their app enables users to sort music, versus add to a generic library. Granted, I’ve been invited to the pre- pre- launch, so who knows what is up those Myspacers’ sleeves.
What you really have here is a company that is trying to build the world’s largest social/crowdsourced recommendation engine for media… curated by editorial staff (see below) and everyday people who share similar taste in music, videos, and other content. There is a need for a company to get this right, so Myspace has a shot. It just is trying too hard to be cool, and in the process has made the site really hard to use.
Even on sign up, the experience is confusing. Most people who sign up are going to not be musicians or artists. Most people are going to be fans. So, ideally, you’d make being a fan seem less uncool in the UI. You’d basically check that off for everyone because even artists are fans. Then you’d provide an option to be a content creator as well. Unless the site is no longer for the fans, which I think defeats the point of a media discovery application.