It was inevitable. Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of MySpace was going to destroy it. Everyone knew that. Now the evidence is at hand and on display in the New York Times.
The decline begins with monetizing everything that moves. With Fox as the parent company, MySpace becomes just another mainstream vehicle to inject advertising into the tattered veins of a public that is viewed as nothing but consumption junkies. The lust for revenue will overpower whatever social benefit the service presently offers. And for those who hoped that MySpace’s founders, Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, would insulate their brainchild from the suits, they will only be bitterly disappointed by reality. The Times reports this repulsive initiative…
“…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.”
Deodorants as a whole new kind of real friend for the young people. Now that’s innovation! But that’s not all. The new bosses think it would be a good idea to start charging the many bands that have created profiles and use the site to develop and connect with their fans. This idea is so bad that even DeWolfe opposes it. Unfortunately, the Fox Interactive Media boss, Ross Levinsohn, has ideas of his own and dismisses DeWolfe’s objections…
“…saying it was appropriate for the people running MySpace to be more concerned at this point about serving users than making money.”
That’s essentially an admission that, at some point in the near future, it will be appropriate to be more concerned about making money than serving users. These examples of commercialization foreshadow precisely how the culture of MySpace will become tarnished and unappealing. Its members will come to feel disinterested and exploited. But I’ve always considered the real threat to be the invasion of privacy by intrusive marketing strategies. This avenue is not being ignored by Fox:
“Mr. Levinsohn says he also hopes to raise ad rates by collecting more user data so advertisers can find the most promising prospects. To use the site, people need to provide their age, location and sex, and often volunteer their sexual orientation and personal interests. Some of that information is already being used to select ads to display. Soon, the site will track when users visit profile pages and other sections devoted to topics of interest to advertisers.”
I’m sure that will provide them with a truckload of demographic data they can use to throw ads at their membership. But they will also know a lot more about their members than any of them would be likely approve. When you combine the personal data that members volunteer with the data that can be collected from the relationships in their network of friends and add the data acquired by monitoring their surfing habits, you end up with a profile that can be awfully revealing.
Knowing that the folks behind MySpace have previously been affiliated with business practices wherein they unlawfully spied on their customers, should give MySpace users sufficient cause for alarm to reconsider remaining in the network.