MySpace today announced a new feature, called "Mashups with Facebook," that allows new users to pull all their Facebook Likes and Interests into their MySpace accounts—the better to accelerate the process of getting started using MySpace. Some sources have framed the move as a sign that MySpace is "capitulating" to Facebook in the social network wars.
But that's not true. MySpace actually capitulated many months ago, when it decided to stop being a social network. Instead, it became an entertainment hub. Mashups with Facebook is just the company’s latest move in that pivot.
MySpace launched its new product last month. Some saw it as a "redesign," but it wasn’t an upgrade of the old MySpace so much as version 1 of the new MySpace. Gone was the blinking, chaotic interface and the mishmash of user profiles. In its place was a tighter, cleaner layout that focused on finding you personalized entertainment content. At the time, CEO Mike Jones acknowledged that the company had become unfocused over the years and had decided to rebuild "from the ground up."
It was a classic business pivot. The executive team stepped back and re-examined the company’s value proposition. MySpace started out seven years ago as a social network, but the site had evolved into a destination for fans or music and other types of entertainment. Instead of fighting the tide, the company realized they could offer more value if they focused on what users were actually doing with the site. And they built a new product around that—"a highly personalized experience," the company says, aimed at Gen Y users. It aims to help them "discover content and connect with other fans who share similar interests."
Some observers are impressed with the results. "It’s even better than I expected," Forrester analyst Augie Ray told Fortune. "It's a compelling entertainment destination. Entertainment is huge, and MySpace will be at the center of it."
Speaking to reporters on a call-in press conference today, Jones said the company had now completed the global rollout of the new MySpace. The addition of Mashups with Facebook, he added, would make it easier for new users to join. Indeed, if you were starting an entertainment portal today, wouldn’t you implement any feature that made it a snap for users to get started? For MySpace not to do so out of some mistaken sense of pride would be, as your grandmother might say, cutting off its nose to spite its face.
It’s still an open question whether the new MySpace will succeed. Ad spending on the site is expected to decline to $297 million in 2011, down from $470 million in 2009, according to eMarketer. But pivots generally involve pain. Existing customers leave because they don’t like the new direction, or they simply don’t like change. It takes a while for new customers to discover you and decide you have something to offer. Revenue suffers. But the pain is necessary. As Andre Gide once said, "In order to discover new lands, you must first be willing to lose sight of the shore."
MySpace is now in that wide open ocean, having left its old shore. It will be a while whether we know whether is navigating purposely, or simply bobbing adrift. But making MySpace quick and easy for new users is about as useful a tool as any seeker of new lands could wish for.