Friday, May 11, 2007

Social Network Woes?

This past week MySpace announced the purchase of Photobucket for $250 million in cash. Compared to News Corp's $580 million acquisition of MySpace, this looks relatively expensive. Further since Photobucket users are primarily MySpace users, News Corp is paying a lot for an incremental amount of eyeballs. Why would News Corp do such a thing?

Well, in a case of the rich getting richer, MySpace is the primary destination for social networkers out there. Sure, there's LinkedIn for business folk, Friendster for early adopter social networkers, Sneakerplay for sneaker lovers,Facebook for college students and so on and so forth. However, nothing beats the shear strength of MySpace's reach and depth (176 million as of right now). MySpace helps to launch many items of interest including a high proportion of Michael Eisner's Prom Queen episodes, various movies and television shows, and of course the original intent of MySpace: music and unsigned bands. MySpace video is second only to juggernaut YouTube and the numbers for MySpace are staggering, with the social networking site consistently in the top 5 sites hit, searched for, and session time.

MySpace is protecting its territory and rightfully so. However, those of you who remember Friendster also remember how quickly that social network flickered out. With niche social networks coming out, MySpace wants to be the ONLY destination for social networkers. Two weeks ago, I was notified that my account on Nike's Runner's social network would no longer be supported. I suspect that as time goes on this will be a common scenario. However, the niche social networks do have targeting which many advertisers find valuable. The social network is stronger than ever however, we are slowly seeing segmentation.

I would compare this now to the age of network television versus cable. We have the big players, the MySpace, Friendster, LinkedIn, and Facebooks (akin to ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) and then the niche players like SneakerPlay, MuscleDog, Barack Obama Supporters, etc which all serve a very important purpose. And if we take this a step further, I could definitely see MySpace purchasing other social networks (like StockPickr for example) similar to NBC and CNBC, simply to sell highly targeted niche advertising.

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