The New MySpace: A Place For Fans

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur) How long has it been since you logged into MySpace?  If you’re like me, you’ve abandoned your profile so long ago that the background graphic expired, the embedded video no longer exists on YouTube, some of your favorite bands are no longer together, and half of your top friends have deleted Read more

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)

How long has it been since you logged into MySpace?  If you’re like me, you’ve abandoned your profile so long ago that the background graphic expired, the embedded video no longer exists on YouTube, some of your favorite bands are no longer together, and half of your top friends have deleted their profiles.

Honestly, ever since Facebook opened its doors to state colleges in May 2005, the transition from MySpace’s chaotic, spam-filled environment to Facebook’s cleaner – and at the time, more exclusive – social networking platform was both effortless and a no-brainer.

MySpace’s struggle to compete started long before Facebook left the college club and went public.  From questionable content to frequent script errors, MySpace had to deal with the repercussions of offering its users a little too much freedom, and its vulnerability to phishing and viruses landed MySpace the #1 spot on PCWorld’s list of the World’s Worst Websites.  Ouch.

So how do you recover from such a swift and traumatizing fall from grace?  At first, MySpace tried to fight back by adding some Facebook-inspired functionality, like photo tagging, status updates, and applications.  Then MySpace laid low for a couple of years, leading us all to wonder if it was going to cave to the pressure…okay, no one was really wondering that, we all had forgotten about MySpace by then.

Little did we know that something was brewing in the social networking site’s Beverly Hills headquarters.  First, MySpace had to fix the fundamental errors in its equation, and again, they looked to Facebook for a few pointers.  After adding staggered privacy (just friends, 18+, or everyone), plus a cleaner, lighter design, MySpace was ready to begin its brand overhaul.

Last week, on October 27, 2010, MySpace rolled out its new look, and news and reviews blazed through the blogosphere like an iPhone 5 press release.  Here’s what you need to know about the new MySpace:

The Strategy

“Niche players have long staying power.”

This is what Michael Jones, the president of Myspace, told Miguel Helft of The New York Times in an article about the re-branding effort.  MySpace went back to its roots and recognized its potential to be a leader in entertainment and media.  After all, MySpace’s first faithful followers were independent bands and artists looking for a DIY interactive way to promote themselves.  Music was MySpace’s claim to fame, and music is what would move it back into the spotlight.

MySpace realized that it could no longer compete with such a monolithic powerhouse as Facebook, and so it gave up trying.  Instead, MySpace would become a leader in “social entertainment,” focusing its efforts on content curation.  Individuals in niche entertainment communities (for example, a zombie movie enthusiast) would emerge as experts in their field, sharing the latest and greatest from the myriads of sub-genres to their group of followers.  MySpace would go from being a platform for dry personal stats to an organizational system for multimedia content.

MySpace is also establishing itself as a destination for “entertainment discovery,” that is, a place where users instinctively go to discover the newest music, upcoming movies, previews of TV shows, hot celebrity gossip, and more.  The few times I have logged into MySpace over the past few years have been to check out a band that I heard about from a friend.  Entertainers still have a huge presence on MySpace over Facebook, and it’s good to see MySpace tapping into this advantage.

The Logo

Unveiling a new logo is always a risky move.  Whether or not it was intentional, Gap received a lot of attention (mostly negative) for its new logo, which the company phased out just as quickly as it phased it in.  MySpace takes the plunge by switching to the popular Helvetica font and replacing the “Space” in “MySpace” with an underscore.

The underscore, at least according to MySpace VP of User Experience Mike Macadaan, is supposed to signify that users have the freedom to express themselves on the MySpace platform (well, duh, that was the problem in the first place).  The promo reel for the new MySpace shows various artsy collages emerging from the blank space, also representative of the company’s new direction: it’s hip, it’s underground, it’s so cool that if you don’t understand the meaning of two eyeballs dangling from a plant, you’re just not cool enough to be on MySpace.

The Website

The old MySpace interface was chaotic, to say the least.  Your eye wouldn’t know where to go, and before long, you’re experiencing a mild epileptic seizure.  Users of the new MySpace are now able to choose from three different homepage designs: a traditional text-based list view, a clean magazine layout-like grid view, and a video-supported play view.  There are also rumors that MySpace is looking to make its website mobile-friendly.

Users now get personalized news streams, aggregate content from major entertainment news sources (MTV and Access Hollywood, for example), and a discovery tab where users can check out what’s “trending” in the MySpace world.

With regards to personal profiles, too-dynamic and too-customized layouts have been replaced with simpler modular designs, and MySpace has reduced the amount of available layout configurations to streamline the aesthetic.  This was a great tactical move, because instead of the design, the content stands out.  Not to stir up a debate or anything, but isn’t that what social networks are about anyway, the user and the content?

The most important new feature, I think, is integration with Facebook and Twitter, which is MySpace’s way of saying “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”  Users can sync the three specialized services, which at the same time publicizes to friends and followers on other platforms that they are still active on MySpace.  Now that’s brilliant.

Only a few profiles are experiencing the new MySpace in beta, which is expected to transition globally by the end of November.  Do you have the new MySpace?  Let me know what you think!