NPR Story
2:33 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

The New Myspace Hopes To Be Home For Creative Community

The new Myspace is hoping the creative community will make the site their space.

Myspace was once the biggest social media network on the web, but with the emergence of social media sites like Facebook, Myspace lost its following when many of the casual users moved to the sleeker new social sites.

In 2011, Myspace was acquired from NewsCorp by singer and actor Justin Timberlake, along with brothers Tim and Chris Vanderhook, owners of the online advertising site Specific Media.

Chris Vanderhook told Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson that Myspace failed because it lost its focus.

“I think they lost sight of who their audience was,” Chris Vanderhook said. “It wasn’t the moms of America. It should have been, and should have remained, all of those artists who used the platform to be discovered: Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, B.O.B, LMFAO, all of those guys.”

The site re-launched in January.

Guests

  • Tim & Chris Vanderhook, owners of Myspace.
Copyright 2013 WBUR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

The social media site Myspace was originally launched back in 2003, and was once king. In 2005, it was acquired by News Corporation for $580 million, but users fled to Facebook and other sites. In 2011, it was sold again, for just $35 million to Justin Timberlake and Chris and Tim Vanderhook, who cofounded the online ad site Specific Media. The Vanderhook brothers are with us now, from NPR West. Guys, welcome.

TIM VANDERHOOK: Thanks for having us, Jeremy.

CHRIS VANDERHOOK: Good to be here.

HOBSON: I guess we should first of all say that you are not the Winklevoss twins.

VANDERHOOK: No, we definitely are not.

VANDERHOOK: No.

(LAUGHTER)

VANDERHOOK: Although we did meet them last week in Chicago.

VANDERHOOK: We did.

HOBSON: Really?

VANDERHOOK: Like, if I stood on top of Tim's shoulders, we wouldn't even be as tall as one of those guys.

(LAUGHTER)

HOBSON: All right. Well, you have described Myspace as being in its third or fourth inning. For people who have not been to Myspace in years, what is it now, and how is it different from what it used to be?

VANDERHOOK: Yeah. We describe Myspace as a home for the creative community. And when we were looking at the opportunity of acquiring Myspace with Justin Timberlake, what we saw - and a consistent need - was for creatives out in the world that didn't really have a digital home. And what we wanted to do was create a single place where artists can house their - all of their content, whether it be video content, audio content, images, whatever it may be, and house all of their fans and try and - spark interactions between those two.

A lot of the creatives out in the world, they use Twitter, they use YouTube, they use Facebook, they use all these platforms to try and grow their reach to new audiences and acquire new fans, but they didn't really have a home. And I think one of the consistent drumbeats that we heard from the creative community was they would love for a single destination that they could direct everyone to.

HOBSON: So this is really about music.

VANDERHOOK: It's about music. But music, when you look at a recording artist, he has so many people around him. They create music videos. So there's a lot of filmmakers on there, as well, too. And I think it's - we describe it as a creative community. And I would say that musicians or recording artists are definitely square in the center, but they have a lot of people around them that have a lot of artistic pursuits.

HOBSON: Do you find that you're helped having an existing brand that people know, some people like, some people don't like? It obviously didn't work under Rupert Murdoch as he had hoped it would. Is it better to have an existing brand, or would you have been better off starting from scratch?

VANDERHOOK: We get asked that question a lot. You know, we think that the brand is the biggest benefit that really - that we were getting into when we acquired it. We actually bought it for the brand. You know, getting a brand that has the level of awareness that Myspace does, to create that, or to recreate that, you're looking at billions of dollars of investment and marketing and PR and all that. So the fact that it has such large, global brand awareness is a huge plus and a major benefit.

HOBSON: And you've still got some of the relics of the old brand. Tell us why Thursday is the most busy day for Myspace.

VANDERHOOK: Yeah. This is really a - it's a funny story, actually. We were staring at the data on the site, on visitors on the site. You know, we look at it constantly, trying to make sure that we're improving the product. And what we noticed was every Thursday, there was a 30 to 40 percent bump in traffic over the other days of the week. And for the longest time, we could not figure it out. But what we realized was across Twitter, primarily, and Facebook, other social channels, there's something called throwback Thursdays, and it's basically where people get together and say remember when.

And what we recognized is we have so many pictures actually stored on Myspace. We have about 15 billion pictures stored of people since 2003. Everyone goes back and tries to find a picture from five to 10 years ago and sends it out on Twitter and Facebook. And so we get this natural bump in traffic where people are kind of laughing at themselves. It's a funny thing to see.

HOBSON: How are you going to be profitable? This is a question that every tech company has to be asked.

VANDERHOOK: You know, Tim and I have been running our company since 1999, and we've had a very profitable business for many years. We know how to run a business, and our core business is that of advertising. And Myspace is a platform for content creators, and we are helping them reach their fans, which also means that we're helping them distribute that content. And then we also - we help monetize it for them. To us, we're very focused on making it a profitable business. What we don't say is we're not worried about it. We're going to get the monetization later. I think that's a really cute Silicon Valley quote.

VANDERHOOK: I would add to that. I think one of the biggest opportunities is really driving revenue for artists and creatives themselves. This is a group of individuals that make life better for a lot of people in society, constantly creating music that makes people happy, whatever it may be from their mood. And yet the monetization opportunities to really help them live a better life have been very low.

And so what Chris and I really saw was an opportunity to help the artist community create a lot of revenue, because we could bridge the gap of advertisers and artists.

HOBSON: But that doesn't make any money for you.

VANDERHOOK: No, it does. We'll share in it as well, too. We have a lot of salespeople out in the market that can help do it. We've invested a lot in technology. And so the idea is, of course, we'll split it with them in terms of a revenue-sharing arrangement. But I think, overall, being able to capture advertiser dollars and bring some of that to the artist community, I think, is going to be a big benefit for them.

HOBSON: Can you be profitable in the next year, do you think?

VANDERHOOK: Oh, yeah, definitely.

HOBSON: Where would you like to be in one year from now? If we were to talk again one year from now, what would you like to say about how many users you have, for example?

VANDERHOOK: We don't really look at the number of consumers using the platform as the key metric. Of course it's important, but we really look at the number of artists using the platform and uploading content and how much content consumption happens. So, for us, I would like to say that every artist in the world is using Myspace as their home and uploading content on a regular basis and interacting with their fans. And hopefully, we've brought meaningful revenue opportunities to each individual, as well, too.

HOBSON: Did you guys have Myspace pages back in the old days?

VANDERHOOK: Yes. Mine was extremely embarrassing.

(LAUGHTER)

VANDERHOOK: I think I got a layout from a friend of mine. And what was funny was, looking back on that, you know, I used it for various things. At one point, I was hunting kind of new bands, because when I'd find a new band or new music, I would use that credibility and turn around to my friends and share it to them, and I would get some psychological benefit out of that

I was probably very similar to, like, other people, which was, at some point, I would sit there in 15-second page loads, and I would just say, forget it. I'm done. I don't care that everybody else is here. I'm not going to use this at some point. The product really started to annihilate the audience, you know?

At the end of the day, I do believe that if they would have continued to evolve and continue to find that product for their audience, and I think they lost sight of who their audience was, it wasn't the moms of America. It should have been and it should have remained all of those artists who used the platform to be discovered: Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, B.o.B, LMFAO, all of those guys. That's the reason why Myspace really took off, and it should have been who they remained to focus on.

HOBSON: Tim and Chris Vanderhook are the new owners of Myspace. Guys, thanks so much for joining us, and good luck with the company.

VANDERHOOK: Thanks so much.

VANDERHOOK: Thanks, Jeremy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.