MySpace today unveils a striking redesign that represents a culmination of the News Corp.-owned social network's attempt at reinventing itself as an entertainment hub.
According to president Mike Jones, MySpace had long suffered from what he calls "design debt," meaning an accumulation of different looks and incompatible functions. (For example, there have been 117 different styles for the MySpace logo alone.)
Therefore, rather than undertake a simple redesign, Jones and his team elected to completely rebuild the site "from the ground up," he said. "This is something we can now build upon."
MySpace will roll out the new design gradually over the next month, starting in the U.S. Perhaps the greatest change is that the new MySpace ditches the old site's anything-goes clutter, common to many of its profile pages, for more white space, organization and standard page structure.
Plus, the site's new look attempts to convey that MySpace has its finger on the pulse of what is going on in social media and entertainment. The site's home page features a large counter near the top of the page providing messages such as "9,871 people have uploaded a photo today."
Per Jones, the main reason for the redesign and refocusing of MySpace is that the war is over, and Facebook has won. MySpace is no longer looking to chase Facebook in a quest to become the world's communications hub. It's instead zeroing in on 13-to-35-year-olds. Similarly, it's no longer attempting to emulate portals like Yahoo by providing users with every bit of information and content they might need.
"MySpace had become too broad," said Jones. "We are going niche over broad. We want to focus on a singular need."
The need that MySpace wants to serve is entertainment junkies' desire to be in the know on everything about their favorite music artists, movies, games and shows -- and to be able to discuss all of that with others.
Thus, the new MySpace is designed to facilitate connections between like-minded fans -- and also to social media leaders, a group MySpace refers to as "curators." Curators can be serious bloggers, or "that friend who always hears about the new band first," said Jones.
Beyond socializing, MySpace is also looking to serve as something of a Huffington Post/Twitter for entertainment lovers. Via topic pages, MySpace users can opt to "follow" a show like Fox's Glee, and view headlines from sites across the Web, like TMZ and various Glee blogs.
"Self-expression is still here," said Jones. One way that users will be able to express themselves on the new MySpace is by earning badges, a Foursquare-esque gaming element aimed at encouraging users to become more active by creating playlists and uploading content.
Whether users take to the revamped site and bring others back to the MySpace fold is the big question. Jones declined to make any predictions, saying only that MySpace's audience had "stabilized," though "traffic patterns may change." According to comScore, MySpace still reached 95 million unique users globally in August. Yet per Quantcast, MySpace's U.S. audience has steadily declined in 2010, landing at 43 million users last month.
For his part, Jones emphasized the new MySpace's engagement metrics, which in testing showed marked improvement. That is likely what the site will champion to advertisers going forward.
The new MySpace will feature several new ad placements aimed at attracting traditional brands. But the bigger change is that the site will deliberately carry far fewer ads. "A lot of ad units are gone," said Jones. "There has been a definite reduction in performance inventory."