New Myspace Takes It Back To The Future

Tim and Chris Vanderhook think Myspace had it right – at one point. And they believe they’ve revived and improved that formula for success as the revamped first titan of social media debuts its latest incarnation.

The Vanderhooks unveiled the new Wednesday, revealing a site focused on entertainment that combines social networking with streaming music. There are new features aimed at helping musicians, writers and other artists connect with their followers, an app and a radio function.

“Today more than ever there’s this need for a creative ecosystem that kind of caters to the creative community and that’s both a social network and the streaming services attached,” Tim Vanderhook said. “For us when we looked at it, we really talked to a lot of artists and … they all said, ‘I use all these various platforms but none of them really do what we need.’ What they really needed, they explained to us, was a home.”

The launch comes nearly two years after the Irvine, Calif.-based Specific Media owners teamed with Justin Timberlake to buy the ailing website for $35 million, a fraction of the $560 million News Corp. paid for it in 2005.

The new owners briefed media this week in the run-up to release. Timberlake was not made available, but the company says he provides the strategic vision for the company and was the person behind the idea of focusing on the creative community.

The Vanderhooks believe the previous owners made a mistake when they tried to compete with emerging force Facebook. At its peak, they believe Myspace was driven by a sense of discovery and sharing. Bands, for instance, would post songs, tour schedules and blogs for fans to follow. It was more direct than a website and gave users the first true sense of social media’s larger possibilities.

“Everyone had a lot of fun on Myspace at one point,” Chris Vanderhook said. “It’s easy to kick it and say, oh, yeah, Myspace sucks now, but everyone had fun on Myspace before. It’s just that they didn’t keep pace with technology and they didn’t keep up with the times.”

The site continues to help those bands (or filmmakers or writers) with analytics that measure fan response and other tools to help them grow.

And by focusing on artists initially, they’re gambling fans will soon follow in large numbers.

Photo: Myspace/AP Photo
A screen shot from the newly designed

“We think the creative class is about 38 million people in the United States and growing every single day,” Tim Vanderhook said. “And by really servicing that group, we think reaching out to one level past that – all of their fans and the creative consumers that like this type of entertainment – we think are going to be critical to our success.”

The deal to purchase Myspace drew plenty of attention – partly for Timberlake’s involvement and partly for what seemed the foolhardy nature of the venture. Even the Vanderhooks admit Myspace was on a downward spiral that should have ended in the site’s demise. But they became infatuated with it in 2008 as they watched it fade and were convinced it could be rescued.

The revamped site debuts at a particularly competitive time, however, with Apple launching iRadio this week and other established brands like Google moving into the streaming field using the subscription model, the radio model or both.

The Vanderhooks don’t start from scratch, however. They say the site still has 27 million users in the United States and about twice that worldwide. Those users will be switched to the new site Wednesday and the previous version will disappear.

“Keep playing up the crazy angle so when people actually do decide that we made a good decision, it will serve our ego even bigger,” Chris Vanderhook said with a laugh. “To the average person out there they think you’re totally nuts, but no, I don’t think we’re crazy, to be honest.”