A day after Google went public with a tilt at Facebook, today’s dominant social network, News Corp has found a buyer for MySpace, the ruling online hangout of yesteryear. The selling price is said to be between $30 million and $40 million — at best about 7 cents on the dollar News Corp paid six years ago.
When Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate bought MySpace for $580 million in 2005 it was the place to be online. As recently as 2008 it was still the top locale. But in April of that year Facebook surged and left MySpace in the dust. And according to the Law of the Digital Jungle — there can be only one über-dominant social network, search engine or word processor — that meant that the inexorable MySpace death spiral had begun.
For the hardy, well-heeled and focused, however, it isn’t game over in the social media space. The smartphone app-driven environment is invigorating niche networks for sharing based on limited circles (Path), media (Instagram) and proximity (Color).
It isn’t clear what Specific Media has in mind for MySpace, which remains a popular site for indie bands. It could lower its profile and exploit that strength to the exclusion of all other ambitions. Even with with a $40 million pricetag, this reformulated niche social network would be a cheaper startup than Color, which has yet to get much traction, and a much better known, albeit tarnished, brand. Heck, former Wired.com music tech writer and current Evolverfm.com editor Eliot Van Buskirk argued months ago MySpace should actually turn band pages into apps.
While MySpace may forever remain the worst digital investment ever made by News Corp, the experience didn’t deter Murdoch from making another big bet just this year with the launch of The Daily. The iPad-only publication has cost the company tens of millions of dollars and while News Corp does not break out subscribership or the financials for the division — one could argue they might if the news was good — an analysis in April by the Neiman Lab suggests a downward trajectory.
And then there is Google, which only Tuesday unveiled its own full-service social network, Google+. The search giant isn’t calling “+” a Facebook killer, but they don’t need to. The law of the digital jungle will sort it all out in due course.