Is MySpace Too Popular Or Too Populated?

    October 30, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

If News Corp.’s not careful, MySpace will become a cautionary tale. It’s explosive growth and subsequent exploitation is starting to cheese off, if you’ll forgive the juvenile expression, a good portion of its user base. Declining numbers could be just a leveling off, or it could be a sign of overpopulation.

For some, a couple of major publication articles illustrating how MySpace has lost its luster among the in-crowd was a tad alarmist, considering it was based on the disdain of an isolated few. For others, it was perhaps predictable, even if the degree to which MySpace will cool is still under debate.

According to the teenagers that WaPo’s Yuki Noguchi talked to, MySpace “is so last year.” It’s become popular, which means it can’t be popular anymore. The kids at Falls Church High School are finding it “pointless,” annoyed by thousands of friends they don’t know, pestered by marketer friend requests.

Because MySpace has become so popular, parents, teachers, the government, and marketers have begun trolling the once sorta-kinda-private public profiles for information, defeating the point of having a virtual hangout to begin with.

And that just takes the fun right out of it.

Noguchi’s article hit the wire Monday echoing Vauhini Vara’s Thursday Wall Street Journal article entitled “MySpace, ByeSpace?”


Vara’s article revealed “a fringe of Internet users” are bailing on MySpace because the site has become too popular. MySpace and Facebook have both declined in visitors over the past few months, presumably because of a sense of online xenophobia.

MySpace users are upset about the constant advertising, over-saturation inside, constant supervision, and biggest of all, the creepiness factor from online predation. Original Facebook members are upset because the once college-only site opened itself up to the rest of the Internet.

Could we have predicted a certain level of discontent? Yes, we could have, even when the News Corp. buyout of MySpace was just a rumor last year. For many pre-News Corp. members, MySpace was a site whispered about among the young crowds – almost a secret place on the Web. Now it’s just getting crowded.

Let’s recall some statements made by MySpace members pre-August, 2005, when the fiercely loyal social networkers expressed concerns about Rupert Murdoch’s motives, privacy, censorship, and – worst of all – access fees.

“It’s something we’re very concerned about,” said Scott Swiecki, 34, of Tempe Ariz., who’s a member of the MySpace group “Faux News.” “There are a lot of counterculture people on MySpace. My concern is Fox will add fees and censor content.”

News Corp. never added access feesand never censored content right? Well, mostly right, at least you can’t really prove the latter.

“I’m opposed to what Rupert Murdoch has done to the media, and I don’t want him involved in MySpace,” said user Nathan Hall, 26, of Milwaukee.

A major corporation auctioning off the attention of an audience? Never happened, right?

But it was the marketing world that made the largest contribution to the wide-scale exploitation of 124 million profiles. The reasons marketers were interested were the same reasons others became interested.

Wrote Danah Boyd on July 18, 2005:

“You have millions of American youth identifying with media and expressing their cultural values on the site. Marketers want to understand the constantly shifting youth trends and are often looking for a perch from which to be the ideal voyeur. And with MySpace, they found it. Here, youth are sharing media left right and center and forgetting that they are doing so under the watchful eye of Big Media who are certain to use this to manipulate them. Because youth believe that MySpace is a social tool for them, they are not conscious of how much data they’re giving to marketers about their habits.”

Since then, they’ve come under the watchful eye of the press, the parents, predators, teachers, and law enforcement, too. With that in mind, it seems less like teen fickleness and more like a busted party. The great things never go away. It’s marketing that drives fads, not teens. It’s crowds that move the sensible to find new places before everyone else does. It’s parents and cops that bust parties.

So what do we do now? We just declared social networking as the next revolution on the Net. We spent the past year trying to figure out how to work social networks into a campaign, and now I’m telling you that it’s driving those valuable eyeballs elsewhere. Well, no, not completely.

I think it’s realistic to imagine that MySpace and Facebook and sites like them, will ebb and flow, spike and level. It’s realistic to think young users change places several times as new in-crowd pseudo-iconoclasts seek less commercialized pop hangouts. I think these sites will level off, but I don’t think they’ll die – as long as they avoid what could be called the great MySpace lesson in the future.

That lesson, if telling it from then, goes like this:

After the Great Exploitation and the Mass MySpace Migration, marketers learned to be subtler, less intrusive. They learned how to position themselves outside the doors, on the way to and from, like the convenience store next to the club, the deli just outside the head shop.

Nobody anticipated the roaring success of SecondLife and EverQuest, more interactive social networks, but marketers took different approaches once they blew up


Add to | Digg | Reddit | Furl

Bookmark WebProNews: