The Final Nail In The Myspace Coffin?

author PP date 16/03/11

If you've happened to surf around band profiles on Myspace.com, or pressed play on an embedded music player external to the website (such as here on Rockfreaks.net), you'll have noticed one drastic change: unless you are logged into your Myspace profile, or have connected your Facebook profile to Myspace.com, the band player allows you to play only one song before limiting each subsequent track to an arbitrary thirty-second sample until your session timer resets. Currently, there is confusion as to exactly how long you have to wait for before that happens, but it is enough to deter you from checking out a few songs (or bands) in a row properly. It is the single worst business decision Myspace.com could have taken out of all the possible ones short of converting the colour scheme pink or enabling pop up ads. This article examines why it is going to speed up the process of Myspace becoming an irrelevant service in the future.

Myspace is in decline? Old news.

Quite right, but let's go through some history first. Somewhere during late 2007 it became evident that Facebook was going to win the battle for the number one social networking service. Not only did Facebook offer a much more enhanced and appealing way to connect with your friends and relatives, but it also understood to offer an open platform for developers to design and execute small apps to enrich the user-experience (debatable, I know). It didn't take long before early adopters and technically advanced users began to see Facebook as the go-to place for networking and Myspace as a dinosaur in terms of both the user-interface and the user base. When that process begins, the end result for any web-based service will eventually be something along the lines of the graphic below, which really puts into perspective the troubles Myspace.com is facing in 2011 as a result of fierce competition.

Graphic source

Now, if you're sitting on the board of a multinational corporation like News Corp, who purchased Myspace back in July 2005, your thought process goes roughly along the lines of this. Declining user base means less advertising revenue, and since that is the sole revenue model employed by Myspace.com, it basically means your cash cow is running out of income, fast. Clearly you have to step in and refine your strategy, which has directly lead into the annoying 30-second sample feature as described earlier. But first, lets look at the other blunders made by the company in recent memory.

My_______? Even I have a better sense of humour

The first solution was a complete overhaul of the graphical design and functionality of the site, which also lead into re-branding the familiar Myspace.com trademark into the ridiculously unfunny My______. According to the rumours, the developers and programmers worked long nights and often weekends as well to rush the design out as quickly as possible. A disgruntled employee talks of 20-hour days, 48-hour sleepless stints due to intense management pressure on getting it done.

Their reward? Shortly after launch, Myspace.com announced that 47% of its staff, most of them programmers and web developers who had been working their asses off on the new design, would be laid off. To add to the company's troubles, users viewed the new design as too complicated, experienced a wealth of bugs and problems, and generally felt that they had just been sold to the advertisers.

Forced registration has killed many a site in the past

The reason why social networks make money is because they have access to valuable personal data of registered users that they can use for targeting very specific advertisements to each individual user through complex algorithms. So the business model for Myspace.com has always focused on not just enticing new users to register, but on user retention. Millions of anonymous page views per month isn't worth even a fraction of what millions of registered and personalised user profiles are in terms of the advertisement dollars. From a business perspective, Myspace com needs those anonymous users to register and willfully part with their personal data (through some illegible fine print in their terms of service).

The users, on the other hand, don't need or necessarily even want to register with Myspace.com, or any other site for that matter. How many websites do you regularly visit, perhaps several times a day, which have the option for you to register a profile that gives you some additional functionality like commenting, but yet you never do so? The vast majority of websites experience something like 90% of the traffic as merely observers and not as active members of the community. To let you in on a direct example, Rockfreaks.net had a record 34,000 readers in January, but how many of them do you see regularly participating in discussions in the same way as, to name a few regulars, foivos, Skyum (now a writer of course), 123, and others do?

And yet Myspace are, in effect, trying to force the vast amount of their users -- those who are just coming by to check out new bands or new songs by their favorite bands -- into registering in order to fully enjoy the service. Granted, you can skip the annoying registration process by simply connecting your Facebook profile to the site, or so it seems at first. But then you have to confirm your new account by email, choose a password on Myspace.com, et cetera, more or less going through the basic registration process in this way instead. It's annoying, and most people will skip it, because lets face it, us internet users are a terribly lazy bunch.

Competitors should be throwing arms up in the air

Lets say I was a cutting-edge competitor to the pioneering band profile idea of Myspace and had just one wish in late 2010. I'd be thanking heavens right now for Myspace taking a decision which ultimately diminishes their number one advantage over my product, however more technologically more advanced my product might be. By forcing users to register in order to hear the music - the only reason why the majority of the people even go to Myspace.com these days - the company is forgetting the 90% principle as mentioned above, all in the name of trying to gain new users and prevent old users from deleting/inactivating their profiles.

New streaming/embedding/etc companies like Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and Reverbnation among many others should be silently thanking the Myspace management for causing what will potentially drive bands away from Myspace in droves. From the perspective of a band utilizing Myspace as their primary source of new listeners, they aren't interested if the people are registered or not. Their only objective is to somehow entice you to listen to their songs. And by forcing 30 second sampling for everyone who a) doesn't connect their Facebook account or b) register a profile (which are basically the same thing now), Myspace are effectively decreasing the amount of people that'll make a purchase decision for a song/album, go see the band live because they liked that one single they heard on the site, and ultimately buy merch as a direct consequence of one of the former.

Why? It prevents the new fan or listener from hearing the bests of the composition, which sometimes might be the overall composition itself. Imagine if you're in a progressive metal band and want to attract a prog audience whose expectation is eight to twelve-minute songs on average...what are they going to do with 30 second samples? Even a standard mainstream rock/pop band may not agree with the arbitrary 30 second clip of their song that Myspace chooses to play, since there is no way of pre-determining it to be the chorus, a huge buildup, a climax, or even a catchy verse for that matter.

So with all things considered, you don't have to be Nostradamus to predict the future. With Facebook being light years ahead when it comes to social media when compared to Myspace.com, if the bands leave their walled garden and move on to services like Bandcamp instead, what exactly is the attraction for the end-users to use Myspace.com? They'll move where the bands are, and once they've made the switch, it's too late. The competition in music streaming is simply too far ahead of the generic Myspace platform we've all grown used to over the years. The only reason we haven't seen a wide-scale adoption of the newer services is because for the time being, Myspace is still undeniably the largest music streaming service on the web.

The old marketing jargon says that once you've lost a customer due to a bad experience compared to one perceived at a competitor's service, it's ten times more difficult to convince him to return. Already as it is now, services like Bandcamp.com are much more attractive to Myspace because they provide much more functionality for the bands, such as embedded players for full albums or sharing individual tracks easily across the entire web.

It's too early to tell the full impact of the decision, whether it'll be permanent or cause so much uproar that Myspace will have to back down. But one thing is for sure. This is certainly not the way to stop your rapidly declining user base. Quite the opposite.

What do you think?

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