Saving MySpace: Inside the Company's Plan for the Future

We had a chance to step into MySpace HQ for a chat with new Co-Presidents Jason Hirschhorn and Mike Jones, who preside over the News Corp.-owned social network from a shared desk in Beverly Hills.

The joint office speaks to how closely Hirschhorn and Jones are working together to create a unified vision of the future for the lately struggling MySpace, whose former CEO Owen Van Natta exited the company after only nine months in the hot seat.

Hirschhorn describes MySpace as a site that "lacked focus" as he and Jones were getting up to speed and learning about the business. He sees the pair's role as instilling that much-needed focus as well as driving a re-imagination of the site from both a user interface perspective and in the development of new products.

All of what we saw today on the near future of MySpace's roadmap — into approximately fall of this year — is in service of the networks' new overarching goal of promoting user discovery and self-expression.

MySpace Strategy

As Hirschhorn describes it, MySpace's trajectory moving forward is about the "pillars of broadcasting, discovery, self-expression, and making content a part of all those experiences." He spoke to quality, usability and engineering as major focal points: "We want as many people here to be people who build, and who create, and who have top-notch engineering talent."

Jones relates that metrics have become a core mantra for the company as well: "If someone's inside the company, we want to give them complete transparency in regards to what they're working on it, why they're working on it, why it's important, and if what they did actually came to a good effect."

The company has effectively retooled the way the business works to make data a huge driver, including implementing very specific new product rollouts, user testing and full-circle evaluation of how changes affect user behavior.

But beyond instilling a level of discipline regarding the process of implementing user interface changes and building new products, at the end of the day Hirschhorn says MySpace is about "music that you love, the photos that you love, the video that you love, and the artistic stuff that goes on every day that says that you're you. Those are the pillars of how we're going to be building our product."

Social Network or Destination?

We asked Hirschhorn and Jones whether they envisioned MySpace as needing to cultivate its roots as a social network versus crafting the site as more of a destination around premium content, and the answer essentially is both.

"You need to be a platform where your audience has a voice," even as culture constantly shifts and changes, said Hirschhorn. "I think a lot of people say 'content portal' — it isn't just about putting up channels that broadcast this stuff one-to-many. It's about putting up a platform that's totally accessible to anyone that creates content, whether it's big media or not."

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