On the day that MySpace rolled out its much discussed redesign, I asked Steve Pearman, the company's SVP of product strategy, five quick questions about the new features and why the social media community may still think MySpace is the kids' version of Facebook.
Q. [Jennifer] First, what was the true motivator for the redesign? Some are saying a shift in target market perception and others are saying it's all about bringing in additional advertising dollars.
A. [Steve] About a year ago, we really kicked off this process. We took a step back and looked at the site as as if we were going to build it from scratch today. MySpace is a byproduct of several years of organic growth. We asked ourself what would be better for users; user engagement being a huge consideration. We also thought about how we could make the site better for advertisers and how we could improve it from a technological perspective. Once you get those three elements working together then you're going down a design path that is correct.
Q. Did you get specific requests from advertisers or were you seeing a drop in advertising support?
A. We work very closely with our advertisers and we've learned how to engage our users in a way that will be good for our advertisers. If the users like it, chances are the advertisers will since they know their demographic. As we think about ad products we think about them differently than we did in the early days. Early on there was a perception that we were just for kids. At this point we have more users over the age of 35 than any other social network (according to Comscore).
Q. Then why does MySpace still have this "only for kids" reputation? If the Comscore data is correct, why the misunderstanding?
A. It's hard to shape perception issues. We do a very good job in the music space and that is mentally very heavily associated with the youth culture. That's part of why we did the album release with Neil Diamond -- we knew we had many users who are fans. The reality of it is that MySpace is pretty ubiquitous among a huge portion of the population and what we do is beyond the world of the classic social networking; we're more of a social portal. Everything is baked into the community and all of our content is aggregated. All of this is helping to slowly transform the perception.
Q. What about the Facebook vs. MySpace discussions and the idea that Facebook is better suited for business?
A. Every business should rightly have competition. Facebook is doing what they are doing; we're doing what we are doing. With the new stuff we have coming down the pike we're going to continue to overcome our current perceptions. I think business users are just regular users in a tie and if you can give them the right sort of framework and environment and appeal to them as people, you should be able to appeal to them as a business. And as a business, if they are willing to walk away from 75 million U.S. users that's up to them. We're bigger than anyone else than you're going to deal with if you're playing in this space. We are really proud of how some of the industries who might've had a bad perception, such as the big music labels, have woken up and have stepped into the digital world with MySpace. We're on an exciting path from a content, usability and technology perspective.
Q. With the redesign rolled out, what are some of the future developments and features?
A. We're always working toward better social filtration of content, i.e. helping you find the things you like that you may not have even been looking for. We're also always working toward better areas of user expression and personalization, as well as controlling privacy. There will be tons of interesting things happening on those fronts. We're also doing a very dramatic rethink of the profile and how its managed and manifests itself in the digital world.