What’s New at MySpace: Q&A with Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson
With MySpace launching a redesign, I got a chance earlier this week to throw a few questions at co-founder Tom Anderson, who has 236.2 million MySpace friends given he’s included a default friend every time someone creates a new account.

Can you talk about the redesign. What were the major reasons for doing it, and what are some of the objectives?

The redesign has three major goals – to allow for the new features we are creating, to make the navigation and user interface simpler/easier to use, and to have an aesthetic approach that matches the growth of the company. MySpace was built by technical people, not graphic designers. We didn’t spend time worrying if it looked perfect, because the users were showing up in droves with our simple look; we focused on function, not the look or UI.

What about some of the new features that MySpace will be launching? Anything you can talk about such as the home page, search and MySpaceTV?

The user home page and site navigation have been updated. They’re simpler and easier to use. The big projects we’re working on for the end of the summer are a new profile and a customizable user home page. We want to allow users to create a start page on MySpace that brings in the best of the web–even their other email accounts onto their MySpace start page.

The user profile will be easier to edit and design. The idea there is to allow users to create their address on the web that’s got adjustable privacy so you can share different things with different categories of friends. You might have something you want to only share with your family, for example. We want the MySpace profile to be as ubiquitous as email.

How do see the social networking market evolving in terms of who’s using them and what they want from social networks? How do you see applications within the scheme of things? And do social networks have a place within the corporate environment?

At it’s most basic, a social network is email with pictures. As social networks expand to allow non-members to communicate within the network, or to attract enough members to make the network more powerful, we’ll see their use cases expand – in the work place, at school and with different demographics.

MySpace was an innovator in that it allowed users to embed widgets and flash objects into user profile pages. Giving users that freedom was not the norm back in 2004. Users have had “apps” on MySpace since the beginning, but what’s new for us is the developer platform we launched in February where we’ve formalized that relationship with developers.

Also key for us is that we’ve given app developers access to the user’s home page in addition to their profile page. The idea is to let users create a “start” page when they log into MySpace similar to a netvibes or page flakes. When a user logs into MySpace, they can engage with software created by other developers and companies, and that’s a great boon both for third party companies and for our users.

When it comes to social networks, what attracts advertisers who are looking to allocate more of the marketing budgets online? What kinds of things are you seeing in terms of the kind of advertising that resonates with MySpace users? In other words, what works for advertisers and for consumers as MySpace drives to grow revenue?

Social networks are a better place to advertise than content websites for some advertisers, because the advertiser can engage users in very direct ways. They can create viral campaigns, or special integrations into a site like MySpace, that they could never do on a Yahoo or site designed to deliver content.

The movie industry has been a big advertiser on MySpace. We’ve seen incredible stats on movie awareness based on MySpace campaigns, and users love to use MySpace to talk about movies. You can create a community around a product on MySpace, if it’s the right kind of product. Imagine an advertiser’s results when users on MySpace are custom communities, groups & forums to talk about their products.

Some recent numbers from comScore suggests the social networking marketing could be plateauing in the U.S. Is there more growth to be head in the U.S.? If not, does this make international growth more important? What are the differences in terms of making money from the U.S. and international markets?

We grew by nearly about 2 million uniques this month in the US. The plateau doesn’t seem to be here quite yet. But we are very interested in international expansion. The ad market is not as robust in most non-US territories, but there’s plenty of dollars to be found. We have large ad sales teams in Europe and its not inconceivable that non-US revenue could supersede US revenue in five to ten years. We’ve strategically moved into China and all the markets that we think could take off in the near and not so near future.

There seems to be an obsession with Facebook? Do you feel MySpace isn’t getting its share of the spotlight given its user base is the same as Facebook?

Facebook has really taken off in Canada. I’m not sure why that happened in Canada and not the US, where Facebook is less than half our size and declined in unique users last month. With that kind of growth they deserve the spotlight they’re getting in Canada.

Other links:

- Ars Technica on MySpace’s redesign
- The New York Times on how the redesign is aimed at making MySpace’s home page less cluttered and more welcoming for advertisers.
- GigaOm on how growth for MySpace and Facebook appears to be plateauing in the U.S.
- Silicon Alley on how Facebook and MySpace can create new revenue sources
- Venture Beat looks at how Friendster’s growth in Asia could make it the leading social network again.

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