Less than a year into its rolling relaunch, MySpace has celebrated its first year-on-year growth in audience since February 2009, while Facebook has suffered its first ever double-digit loss of U.S audience.
New figures released by ComScore show that visitors to Specific Media-owned MySpace jumped 1% year-on-year in October, while visitors to Facebook have been dropping steadily throughout 2012, down 10% on October last year.
The new MySpace embarked on a gradual revamp one year ago, fronted by pop star and part-owner Justin Timberlake, and re-pitched as a sexed-up social network targeting emerging music artists and their fans.
Rather than challenging the social behemoth Facebook, the new site will offer Facebook integration and is positioning itself as a competitor to music streaming services Spotify, Pandora and Rdio. Its point of difference will be fostering direct connections between music lovers and artists, the majority of them unsigned, with a catalogue of 42 million songs.
It’s a positioning the Australian digital industry sees, unanimously, as promising.
“There’s no question that the music industry is in the middle of a big bloody revolution and I don’t think it’s too late for someone to come in and own it,” Daniel Monheit, director of strategy at Hard Hat Digital told B&T.
“Spotify is huge if your friendship circle is people in agency land but if you step outside of that most people don’t really know what it is. So I think MySpace has as good a chance as anyone.”
Those figures are of no surprise to Play Communication’s MD Shani Langi. Langi, whose interest in the digital music world is boosted by her marriage to musician and host of Triple J’s Hip Hop Show, Hau Lautukefu, sees MySpace as an innovative alternative to the increasingly arrogant Facebook.
“The new MySpace combines the best of Google, the best of Twitter, the best of Facebook and the best of iTunes into one user experience, which I think is really interesting fit for consumers especially now that Facebook has become a little bit obnoxious. They kind of do with us what they will and we are just humble followers of the Facebook world.”
VML’s social media planner Tiphereth Gloria believes its emphasis on visuals and video will set it apart from existing music sites, while We Are Social strategist Dan Goodswen stresses that its focus on social networking will elevate it beyond its competition.
“There are a few players in this space but Spotify, Rdio, Pandora are not quite social networks. Certainly Spotify is not a great place to build an audience,” he said. “There are sites out there like Sound Cloud, Band Camp which bands are using to try and build audiences but they are not big, none of them have really taken off. There is certainly a space in the market for them to do something.”
But a year-on-year rise in traffic of 1% is still only a minor rise, especially when it’s considered in the context of Facebook’s one billion users. “MySpace might have had a 1% increase in traffic just from people mistyping URLs. It would be pretty negligible,” said Hard Hat’s Monheit.
Having said that, the uplift is nothing to dismiss. While the site is widely regarded to have “died” between March 2009 and November 2011, during which time Facebook ousted it as the most popular social network, it still has 25 million registered members.
“It is bigger than Foursquare, just about bigger than Pinterest and certainly bigger than Sound Cloud so they are not starting from zero, they are starting from a good base. It’s about getting those people engaged again,” said Goodswen.
Since launching the new player in December last year, Myspace has seen a 97% increase in gross signups and an 88% increase in audio streams, the social network today told B&T.
“This leads us to believe there’s a correlation between our traffic increase and our move to make music more readily available and easier to use for consumers vis-√†-vis the new player,” MySpace’s Neda Azarfar said.
The site is currently in an invite only beta, focusing first on artists to ensure the product is right for them, and bringing in select people to get their feedback as final tweaks are made to the site.
The scope of advertising opportunities for brands is not yet clear. Woolworths is currently running ads on the home page, but MySpace wouldn’t elaborate on what would be available to advertisers, except to say “there will be opportunities for brands to integrate advertising into the site”.
It may be too early to know whether MySpace will be part of marketers’ agendas in 2013, but it certainly is top of mind, and the anticipation within the digital advertising community is palpable.
“We are all waiting with bated breath. There is definitely a sense that it has validity for its time,” said VML’s Gloria. “From an Aussie marketer’s point of view, the musically aligned brands would be the first cabs of the rank so to speak. We imagine they would definitely want to be associating themselves.”
We Are Social’s Goodswen suspects the new site will open up a myriad of new marketing opportunities for brands which want to specifically target the lucrative youth demographics.
“We are certainly always open to emerging networks and new ways to find audiences that make sense. I think Facebook has become a default for a lot of people because of its size, but MySpace has a very young audience. They are getting around 15 million monthly active users and they seem to be under 30, largely female so there is potential for it to work for the right brand.
“I think it’s going to be great for artists and bands, whether it’s a place where we’d advise your general sort of brand to go, that remains to be seen. But I think that marketers will go where the people are and if MySpace can get the people to come back then there are always going to be marketing opportunities.”