Two alarming stats for News Corp.’s MySpace in the last three days: ComScore reports that the social network’s U.S. page views in December were down 7% y/y — the first time it’s experienced a decline. And Hitwise says the company’s U.S. market share of social networking visitors dropped 8% during the same time.
Two alternate, reassuring stats: Both ComScore and Nielsen NetRatings show double-digit increases in unique users for the same period: ComScore reports a 13% jump, while Nielsen shows 11%.
To get the caveat out of the way: You can poke holes in any online metric you want, and publishers like MySpace often do so. MySpace and Yahoo, for instance, used to snipe back and forth about ComScore’s page view stats. But what’s telling is that MySpace isn’t kicking and screaming about the newest round of stats.
That’s because execs at Fox Interactive Media have known for a while that MySpace’s growth curve would flatten. Some of that is inevitable: When you’re generating more page views than any other site in the U.S., it’s going to be hard to grow indefinitely. And MySpace execs acknowledge, quietly, that they had overestimated the site’s universe of potential users: In retrospect, it’s clear that your parents aren’t getting their own MySpace page, but at one point it wasn’t. And some of the slowdown, obviously, has come from users leaving for Facebook.
The what-now plan has two main thrusts: Grow outside the U.S, and generate more revenue from each user/page view. But international growth isn’t a given, since many countries have their own versions of MySpace with significant leads. Kids in South Korea, for instance, love CyWorld. Hi5 is big in Spain. And we hear that MySpace is spending significant marketing dollars when it does try to establish itself overseas — something it never had to do in the U.S.
That leaves increasing ad sales. MySpace has spent the last six months talking up its targeting technology, which is supposed to increase the effectiveness of its ad campaigns by as much as 300%. In order for the site to meet its ambitious sales goals, it had better work.
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