Saul Hansell looks at where Fox may take MySpace. MySpace is in a tough place, its become a bridge for Fox, between DIY Web 2.0 and mass media advertising. It sounds like Fox and MySpace leadership are going about things the right way. What I learned:
MySpace now displays more pages each month than any other Web site except Yahoo.
[Fox Interactive Media President Ross Levinsohn] wants to expand one of Mr. DeWolfe's advertising ideas — turning advertisers into members of the MySpace community, with their own profiles, like the teenagers' — so that the young people who often spend hours each day on MySpace can become "friends" with movies, cellphone companies and even deodorants. Young people can link to the profiles set up for these goods and services, as they would to real friends, and these commercial "friends" can even send them messages — ads, really, but of a whole new kind.
The best way to get, say, a television show in front of the MySpace audience is not to cut a deal with a programming czar at a Hollywood restaurant, but to win the hearts, one by one, of thousands of members who will display the show to all of their friends.
"We can't look at this as a media property," said Peter Chernin, the News Corporation's president. "This is a site programmed by its users."
Mr. Levinsohn calls MySpace the antiportal. "It's not about a central hub, because that's not where things are going," he said. "The under-30 set wants choice. It's not about one destination; it's about 65 million."
Mr. DeWolfe discounted the idea of people creating profile pages for small businesses. "If it was a really commercial profile — the gas station down the street — no one is going to sign up to be one of their friends," he said. "There is nothing interesting about it."
Mr. Levinsohn, Mr. DeWolfe and others at the News Corporation say the site has no more or fewer problems than any other community on the Internet, and their primary response to parents' concern is a campaign to educate users about safe surfing techniques. "There are a couple of basic safety tips that can make MySpace safe for anyone over 14," Mr. DeWolfe said. "Just like you tell kids not to get in the car with strangers and to look both ways before you cross the street."
People are truly invested in the site," he said. "All their friends are on it. They spent months building their profiles. And so the cost of switching is too high. If we keep building the features they want, they will stay on the site."