MySpace co-president Jason Hirschhorn isn’t a dummy, OK?
The guy knows he’s in for a humongous challenge turning around News Corp (NWS) social network MySpace, which, even though it has 120 million unique visitors, everyone in the industry pretty much assumes is dead.
Meeting with him yesterday, we asked Jason if he could name an Internet company that, after losing momentum the way MySpace has, managed to turn itself around.
“It hasn’t happened on the Internet,” he told me.
But, he said, “there’s always a first.”
Jason told us the mission News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch and News Corp Digital CEO Jon Miller have given him (and his co-president Mike Jones) is to fix MySpace’s product, fix the brand, stabilise traffic losses, and grow traffic again.
At one point, News Corp touted MySpace as the social network with real revenues. That’s no longer a point of emphasis.
“Wall Street has written us off,” Jason said, “We’re in the ‘other’ column.”
He said his directive is to make MySpace a valuable asset in the long-term.
Despite what we’ve heard to the contrary, Jason also says his job is not to pretty-up MySpace for a sale.
“Maybe we’ll be made liars in 5 years saying this, but we’re not for sale,” he said.
There are no models for an Internet turnaround, but Jason does cite two tech companies as models for how to fix a company with poor momentum: Nintendo and Apple.
He notes that both fixed a lot of their problems with good design — something he recognises MySpace lacks.
“I don’t know that MySpace was ever designed,” he said. It’s true: When it was created, MySpace was cobbled together as a Friendster clone — not as a coherent product.
Jason and Mike plan to change that. Currently, they have the troops working on a re-design is coming this fall. It’s code-named “Futura.”
Jason told us that back at his office in Los Angeles, he has a bulletin board full of “1,000 pieces of flair” — bits of MySpace design that make absolutely no sense, like search buttons that look different on every page.
But more will change on MySpace than just the look. “Futura” won’t be a “re-skinning,” says Jason, but a “re-factoring.” Specifically, he mentioned a renewed emphasis on status updates and a whole system of content based around what’s currently “trending” on MySpace.
There’s going to be a Web TV channel comprised entirely of video content that users’ friends have been watching. There will be a similar music channel.
Currently, about 30% of users visit the site from mobile. Jason wants that number to go up, so MySpace will also launch a new iPhone app next fall. The UI is going to be “tactile” and “fun.”
MySpace won’t be buying any of the social games studios. “We’re a platform,” says Jason. There should, eventually, be a MySpace currency and payments platform.
Some of these kinds of design fixes are already done and Jason believes things are already turning around, telling us MySpace unique visitors were up in November, December, January, and March.
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