Fates and Fortunes

MySpace's Merry Go-Round

4/27/2009 03:11:35 PM

News Corp.’s management merry-go-round continues to spin, with MySpace getting a total revamp under the new leadership of Jon Miller.

Today, the company announced that two big Internet honchos in their own right – former AOL exec Michael Jones and former Sling Media President Jason Hirschhorn – are coming on board as COO and chief product officer, respectively. Both Jones and Hirschhorn will report to the division’s new CEO and former Facebook COO Owen Van Natta. On Friday, Van Natta was announced as the replacement for company founder Chris DeWolfe, who made his exit last Wednesday.

Van Natta joins MySpace from Project Playlist, where he’s been hanging out after it became clear he wasn’t going to get founder Mark Zuckerberg’s CEO job at Facebook. John Sykes, known to most in the B&C community as the former head of MTV Networks, replaces Van Natta at Project Playlist.

Anyone trying to read the tea leaves where MySpace is concerned shouldn’t be surprised by DeWolfe’s departure. By all accounts, the independent DeWolfe never really fit into News Corp.’s culture. Moreover, MySpace has been losing ground to Facebook for months now. I believe that’s because Facebook is far easier and quicker to use – a status update or a comment is as easy as sending a text message whereas MySpace practically requires you to know HTML. Expect that to change under Van Natta, who understands the value of Facebook’s simplicity.

News Corp. acquired MySpace for $580 million in July 2005. At the time, everyone thought News Corp. had won the deal of the century, although the site has recently lost its buzz. Moreover, MySpace suffers the same problem as nearly every other Internet portal besides Google – how does it convert its huge but fractured audience into huge profits?

That’s what Miller & Co. have been brought on to figure out. I expect Mr. Murdoch to give this dream team about 18 months to prove they can turn MySpace into a profit center.

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