NEW YORK MySpace co-founder and CEO Chris DeWolfe is being forced out as part of a major management shakeup at the News Corp.-owned social networking behemoth.
The decision to remove DeWolfe comes a few weeks after former AOL CEO Jonathan Miller was named News Corp.’s chief digital officer. It has been believed that Miller was being brought on to significantly reshape News Corp.’s digital businesses, in particular MySpace, which has seen its once rapid growth decelerate, while falling behind in the social networking buzz race to Facebook and Twitter. Plus, under DeWolfe’s leadership, the site has continued to struggle monetizing its vast amounts of inventory.
A replacement for DeWolfe has yet to be named.
In announcing the decision, News Corp. executives said that DeWolfe’s expiring contract was simply not being renewed, though he will continue to advise the company.
The future of MySpace president and co-founder Tom Anderson — the man who automatically becomes the first friend of anyone who becomes a member of the site — is uncertain at this time. Officials would only say that Anderson would assume a new role in the organization.
“Chris and Tom are true pioneers, and we greatly value the tremendous job they’ve done in growing MySpace into what it is today,” said Miller. “Thanks largely to their vision, MySpace has become a vibrant creative community with 130 million passionate followers worldwide.”
Indeed, despite being eclipsed by Facebook and other properties, MySpace is still one of the largest sites on the Web. However, its days of unstoppable growth are clearly over. In February, the venue reached over 70 million unique users in the U.S., compared to 57.4 million for Facebook. But just a year earlier, MySpace’s unique user base was at 68 million versus 32 million for Facebook.
Meanwhile, MySpace has been relatively quiet on the ad sales front since the company initiated its vaunted “HyperTargeting” ad product in 2007 — which was designed to mine all the personal information MySpace users provide on their profiles. Roughly a year ago, Fox Interactive Media dumped top sales executive Michael Barrett after several reports that the company had significantly missed revenue targets.
Soon after, the company installed Adam Bain as the president of the newly formed Fox Interactive Media Audience Network. The site continues to be a favorite among movie and entertainment advertisers, though HyperTargeting has disappointed some.
On the content and technology side, MySpace has had mixed results. The site’s design is still criticized by some and was slow to embrace the explosion in third-party applications and real-time communications. The company has experimented with original video, while continuing to build on its heritage as one of the Web’s top music destinations (MySpace’s music site has attracted major advertisers). But content deals — such as the recent pact with IAC’s Cityseach — have underwhelmed some in the industry.