If you thought MySpace's pending redesign was a sign that the News Corp.-owned social networking site had suddenly developed a sense of aesthetics -- you may want to think again.
Instead, it's clear that in the face of disappointing ad sales, MySpace's makeover is, to a large extent, driven by the need to become more advertiser-friendly, starting with the auctioning off of the site's 'splash page' to the highest bidder. Described as "the entry point for the site’s global users" (it's the first page users see before they log-in) and offering advertisers "a major opportunity to connect with the diverse MySpace audience", the new splash page's first brand takeover in the U.S. will be a campaign for the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight”, according to the New York Times.
Furthermore, the new splash page features "a larger creative palette for advertisers", says MySpace, "allowing for a flexible platform to put a large percentage of the page into a brand – an unparalleled opportunity for brands to engage users at the gateway to their MySpace experience" (see above screen shot).
The MySpace splash page isn't the only area of the site being tweaked with the interests of advertisers in mind. A significant element of the new MySpaceTV player is more advertising options. "The new player offers a more flexible advertising platform with multiple formats (pre, post, ticker, companion banners) and advertising providers."
And while the press release doesn't mention benefits to advertising specifically in relation to the planned improvements to search, this is one area where online ads have a proven record - - just ask Google! The new MySpace search will have "improved filtering by location and added relevancy to search algorithms", which could easily translate into more relevant, contextual and geo-targeted ads.
In conclusion: Although the MySpace redesign will undoubtedly improve the site's aesthetics and, more importantly, usability, it is also driven by the need for greater monetization. After all, making a site more intuitive and sticky (through improved navigation, discoverability and search) and becoming more advertiser-friendly, aren't mutually exclusive.