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Author Topic:   MySpace
fred
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From:Redmond, WA
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posted March 03, 2006 09:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
This site is out of control - it's time for a topic... pretty soon the internet will be called "MySpace"
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School suspends 20 over MySpace posting
Calif. middle-school student faces expulsion over alleged threat on Web site

The Associated Press
Updated: 11:37 a.m. ET March 3, 2006


COSTA MESA, Calif. - A middle school student faces expulsion for allegedly posting graphic threats against a classmate on the popular MySpace.com Web site, and 20 of his classmates were suspended for viewing the posting, school officials said.

Police are investigating the boy’s comments about his classmate at TeWinkle Middle School as a possible hate crime, and the district is trying to expel him.

According to three parents of the suspended students, the invitation to join the boy’s MySpace group gave no indication of the alleged threat. They said the MySpace social group name’s was “I hate (girl’s name)” and included an expletive and an anti-Semitic reference.

A later message to group members directed them to a nondescript folder, which included a posting that allegedly asked: “Who here in the (group name) wants to take a shotgun and blast her in the head over a thousand times?”

Because the creator of a posting can change its content at any time, it’s unclear how much the students saw.

“With what the students can get into using the technology we are all concerned about it,” Bob Metz, the district assistant superintendent of secondary education, said Wednesday.


Metz said the students’ suspensions in mid-February were appropriate because the incident involved student safety. Some parents however questioned whether the school overstepped its bounds by disciplining students for actions that occurred on personal computers, at home and after school hours.

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fred
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From:Redmond, WA
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posted March 03, 2006 09:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
MySpace.com to bolster security measures
CEO says company to add technology to screen how site used

Reuters

BOSTON - MySpace.com, the online virtual-community run by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., will soon add technology to screen how its 60 million members use the Web site to prevent crime, the company’s chief executive said on Thursday.

He discussed the enhanced security plan in an interview, several hours after federal authorities announced the arrests of two men charged with using MySpace to arrange illegal sexual encounters with minors.

MySpace chief executive Chris DeWolfe declined to discuss the arrests or say how specifically the new security technology will work. The company will give details in an announcement in the coming weeks, he said.

DeWolfe said he’s also in the midst of recruiting an executive to spearhead the company’s security and safety education programs.

The new security chief is likely to have strong experience in working with the Internet as well as a background in security and perhaps law enforcement, DeWolfe said.

The arrests in Connecticut were announced as MySpace looks to deflect a growing public outcry following a spate of news reports about criminal activities allegedly arranged over the site.


Although it is not the only Internet service that’s vulnerable to criminals, recent media reports have focused on MySpace.

Federal officials on Thursday charged Sonny Szeto, 22, of New York with using the site to meet an 11-year-old girl. They also charged Stephen Letavec, 39, of Pennsylvania with using it to meet a 14-year-old girl.

Kevin O’Connor, the U.S. federal Attorney for Connecticut who announced the charges, said that MySpace was not at fault and that full blame lies with the two defendants.

O’Connor also said that he does not intend to ask MySpace to take any specific action to discourage future abuse of the site.

But Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general for Connecticut’s state government, has called on MySpace to tighten access to the site and improve its age verification system.

MySpace and Blumenthal’s office are in negotiations over the attorney general’s request. DeWolfe declined to comment on the status of those talks, saying that his company’s objectives are “aligned” with those of Blumenthal.

“We’ve had productive talks,” DeWolfe said. “I can’t discuss it too much.”

He said that MySpace already has several measures in place to prevent abuse. It prohibits children under age 14 from using the site. It also restricts access to the profiles of 14- and 15-year-olds, allowing them to be contacted only by users that they add to their buddy lists.

MySpace uses software designed to identify minors, flagging profiles with terms likely to be used by children under age 14. Some 200,000 profiles have been deleted from the site on suspicion that users had lied about their age.

But DeWolfe said that the system is not foolproof and that no Web site has developed technology to verify the age of all users reliably.

One of the most effective tools against abuse are warnings and educational messages that MySpace posts on its site, DeWolfe said. “We think that education is the most important piece..”

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fred
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posted March 06, 2006 05:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
NBC Universal to Buy Women's Web Site iVillage; GE Unit Hopes to Capture Share of Internet-Ad Revenue Through $600 Million Deal

General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal plans to acquire iVillage Inc., the women-oriented Web company, for $600 million, the latest move by a major media company to get a slice of fast-growing Internet-advertising revenues. New York-based iVillage has become the top-ranked Web site aimed at women, drawing 14.5 million unique visitors in January, according to ComScore Media Metrix. Its offerings include fashion, love and diet tips; parenting topics; celebrity gossip; and career advice. IVillage also features content from several women's magazines, including Hearst Corp.'s Cosmopolitan and Redbook. It also owns other sites including Astrology.com and Healthcenter.com. Hearst, the biggest shareholder in iVillage, with a 25% stake, said it supports the sale. Time Warner Inc.'s America Online unit owns less than 5% of iVillage. The acquisition will give NBC Universal "immediate scale in the online world," said NBC Universal Chief Executive Robert Wright. NBC doesn't have a major Web presence beyond its co-ownership with Microsoft Corp. of MSNBC.com. Its flagship site, NBC.com, is primarily a promotional vehicle for the broadcast network with some video content. NBC Universal will pay $8.50 a share for iVillage, a 6.5% premium over Friday's price of $7.98 a share. IVillage shares rose 4.8%, or 38 cents, to $8.36 in 4 p.m. Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading yesterday. The deal highlights an effort over the past year by big media companies to expand their presence on the Web, at a time of slowing growth in traditional media. Fox-network parent News Corp., for instance, recently bought MySpace.com parent Intermix Media Inc. for $580 million and IGN Entertainment Inc., an Internet company aimed at videogamers, for $650 million. Viacom Inc., owner of the MTV and Nickelodeon cable channels, last year bought the children's Web site Neopets Inc. for $160 million. Internet advertising is estimated to have grown 30% to $12.5 billion in 2005, according to Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP. While that is still just a small chunk of the roughly $150 billion U.S. advertising market, spending on Internet advertising is growing at a faster pace than in traditional media. Mr. Wright told reporters the growth in online advertising was a "major factor" in the company's decision to buy iVillage. Founded in 1995, iVillage struggled in its early years but recently has shown strong growth. Revenue in 2005 totaled $91.1 million, a 36% increase over the $66.9 million reported for 2004. Net income more than tripled to $9.5 million from $2.7 million a year earlier. In 2000, iVillage co-founder Candace Carpenter resigned as chief executive and was succeeded by former Lifetime Television CEO Doug McCormick. Mr. McCormick said it was "premature to discuss" whether he will stay beyond the closing of the NBC deal. NBC Universal executives said they are planning to put more original content on iVillage as well as use it as a promotional platform for its NBC broadcast network and its cable channels and perhaps even as the basis of a future cable network. "There are fantastic opportunities to marry our television content with iVillage content," said Beth Comstock, president of NBC Universal Digital Media and Market Development, who will oversee iVillage. As for some of the racy content in iVillage's section on love and sex, NBC Universal Television Group Chief Executive Jeff Zucker said, "we have to be conscious of the world we're in and acknowledge that there will be different types of content in different places."

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NEWSFLASH
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posted March 07, 2006 11:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
NBC Courting Online Women


Hot on the heels of News Corp's $580-million acquisition of the teen and young-adult social networking website MySpace.com, NBC Universal announced Monday that it is buying iVillage Inc., which operates websites targeting women, for $600 million. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, Allen Weiner, an analyst with Garner Inc., predicted, "You're going to see all of these big media companies line up to be part of these social communities. They can't get into that market quick enough." Today's New York Times reported that NBC plans to make some of its programs available on the iVillage sites. The newspaper commented: "This is a potentially awkward development because much of the NBC News content is also linked with MSNBC.com, a website it owns jointly with Microsoft." In December, NBC took a controlling interest in MSNBC, leaving Microsoft with just an 18-percent stake in the news channel.

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indiedan
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From:Santa Monica
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posted March 09, 2006 11:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Fox Searchlight Film Takes Over All Ad Space on MySpace.com

Two of News Corp's corporate siblings, Fox Searchlight Films and the newly acquired social-networking site MySpace.com, were due to participate in a bit of synergy today (Thursday), with the film company taking over all advertising on the website for its new movie The Hills Have Eyes, which opens Friday. "The [ad] purchase allows the film unparalleled advertising exposure and helps connect site users to the remake of [the Wes Craven] horror classic," Fox Searchlight said in a statement. In addition to ads, MySpace.com users will be able to listen to portions of the movie's soundtrack, view clips and still photos from the movie, download wallpapers and a screen saver, and play a video game based on the movie.

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fred
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From:Redmond, WA
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posted March 29, 2006 10:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
News Corp. (hearts) MySpace

The media giant recently bought MySpace, the popular networking site for youth -- and it looks like a grand-slam.

By Marc Gunther, FORTUNE senior writer

March 29, 2006: 10:53 AM EST

NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - When News Corp. (Research) paid $580 million for MySpace, an Internet site for teens and young adults, some people figured that Rupert Murdoch's fascination with all things digital had once again led him to overpay for a new-media property.

Half a billion dollars was a whole lot of cash for an asset that a year earlier had been valued at $44 million, when a Silicon Valley venture capital firm bought in.

What's more, Murdoch's track record in new media ventures was less than reassuring. He lost money buying an Internet service provider called Delphi, embraced so-called "push" technology and wildly overspent for Gemstar/TV Guide, whose on-screen TV guides were touted as the gateway to television.

This time, though, the News Corp.'s purchase of MySpace is looking like that rarest of rarities in the media world -- a much-ballyhooed acquisition where it turns out that the buyer underpaid.

MySpace has simply exploded since the deal was done last July. Measured in terms of page views, MySpace has become the second-most popular site on the Internet -- behind Yahoo! (Research), but ahead of MSN (Research), AOL (Research) and Google (Research). It has 66 million members, and about 250,000 new ones sign up each day. That's a mind-boggling growth trajectory for an Internet site that was launched less than three years ago.

"It looks like the best acquisition we've made in a long, long time," Peter Chernin, the second-in-command at News Corp., said in an interview with FORTUNE. "MySpace is the single biggest growth opportunity this company has."

You don't have to take his word for it. A social-networking site called Facebook, which attracts mostly college students, is reportedly on sale, with an asking price of $2 billion. A media-industry source says Facebook's owners turned down a $750 million bid from Viacom (Research). (Viacom declined comment.)

Facebook is a huge phenomenon -- both my college-age daughters swear by it, and it's among the top 10 sites on the Internet -- but it is not as big, by any measure, as MySpace. So if Facebook is worth even $1 billion, MySpace has to be valued at three or four times as much.

Give Murdoch and Chernin credit. One's 75, the other's 54, and yet they saw the potential of a site that, to most adults, still looks like a wild and woolly, unintelligible, almost unreadable hodge-podge of home pages, music by unknown bands, amateur videos, scantily-clad babes and unabashed self-promotion.

The best explanation of MySpace's appeal that I've read comes from not from the business world but from a Berkeley Ph.D. student and social researcher at Yahoo! named danah boyd who describes the site as the virtual equivalent of classic 1950s hangouts like the roller rink or burger joint -- a place where kids can go to escape parental (and other) authority, to try out different identities and, of course, to connect with one another. She gave a lecture about MySpace at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of all places, that you can read here and she blogs at length about it here.

The greatest risk facing MySpace is what boyd describes as "moral panic" -- a growing backlash from parents, teachers, religious leaders and law enforcement officials, along with some media outlets. They warn the site is an inappropriate and potentially dangerous place for teens to hang out. While many MySpace users are in their 20s, people as young as 14 are permitted to sign on.

More to the point, there's no way, as a free site, for MySpace to verify the age of its users. You can read an excellent story about the backlash by clicking here.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a vocal critic of MySpace, recently wrote to News Corp. asking the company to provide parents with software to block the Web site, ban kids under 16, institute new measures against pornography and take other steps to protect children from sexual predators and inappropriate material.

When police arrested a Middletown, Conn., man who allegedly sexually assaulted an underage girl he met on MySpace, Blumenthal declared, "This case is a tragic, real-life example of why allowing children to mix with adults seeking sex is a recipe for disaster."

The critics are right when they say that sexual predators and porn stars hang out at MySpace. So do cops, politicians and clergy. That's what happens when 66 million people -- or, actually, somewhat fewer, because many people post more than one profile -- come together on the Internet or anywhere else.

In some ways, the backlash against MySpace echoes the uproar in the 1950s over comic books, or the 1960s over rock music, or the more recent crusades against rap lyrics and violent video games. What will those crazy kids do next?

But if some of the criticism is overblown, Chernin has no choice but to take it seriously. Only if MySpace is seen as an advertiser-friendly site will News Corp. be able to realize its potential. The very tricky challenge for the media giant is to somehow manage MySpace, without taming its cool factor.

"We don't want to change the cultural feel of MySpace," Chernin says.

Of the company's 280 employees, about a third work, at least in part, on online safety issues. They screen photos being submitted to the site and take down profiles of users who are found to be underage. About 220,000 profiles have been eliminated, according to a company spokesman. The company is also experimenting with software aimed at identifying pictures with a high proportion of bare skin, believe it or not.

"We need to be a leadership position about protecting minors on the Internet and, more importantly, giving the parents the tools they need to protect them," Chernin says.

In the meantime, MySpace is rushing to add more ad sales people. It had been selling its home page for about $100,000 a day. The price is moving up to about $750,000 a day, according to Chernin, who says he's been told that Yahoo! commands about $1 million for its prime real estate.

"There is more opportunity in monetizing the amount of traffic we have on MySpace than I think exists anywhere in the media business," Chernin says.

MySpace also has a lot of information about its users -- their ages, musical tastes, interests -- that could be very valuable to advertisers who want to target their products. Current advertisers include movie studios, fast-food outlets, soft-drinks and cellular phone companies. Some are getting creative. Wendy's (Research) created a MySpace page for its square burger here.

All of this -- the ramping up of ad sales, the efforts to improve online safety, the creation of new tools for users -- is happening at Internet speed.

"They've got to change the tires while they're doing 80 miles an hour," Chernin says.

Yes, it sounds like the late 1990s all over again, a time when all the media giants rushed online, often with disastrous results. It'll be fascinating to see if, this time around, News Corp. can ride the wave.

Plugged In is a daily column by writers of FORTUNE magazine. Today's columnist, Marc Gunther, can be reached at mgunther@fortunemail.com

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fred
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posted March 31, 2006 09:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
MySpace acts to calm teen safety fears
>By Joshua Chaffin and Aline van Duyn in New York
>Published: March 30 2006 20:26 | Last updated: March 30 2006 20:26
>>
MySpace.com, the fast-growing community website hugely popular with American teens, has removed 200,000 “objectionable” profiles from its site as it steps up efforts to calm fears about the safety of the network for young users.

The site, which allows users to create their own profiles with details of their interests that can be viewed and linked to by other MySpace.com “friends”, was acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp last year and its phenomenal growth has placed it at the centre of the media company’s internet strategy.

Ross Levinsohn, head of News Corp’s internet division, said some of the material taken down contained “hate speech”. Some of it, he said, was “too risqué”.

“It’s a problem that’s endemic to the internet – not just MySpace,” Mr Levinsohn said. “The site, in the last two months, I think has become safer.”

With 66m users, and 250,000 new users signing up every day, MySpace has become one of the top internet destinations.

Peter Chernin, president and chief operating officer of News Corp, told the Financial Times that, although he and Mr Murdoch were very optimistic about its prospects when they acquired it last year, MySpace had exceeded their expectations.
“MySpace is more potent and powerful than even we knew,” Mr Chernin says. “And it is becoming a more integrated part of people’s lives.” However, as efforts grow to attract more advertisers to the site, News Corp is facing two challenges. Young users have to keep wanting to use the site, rather than switch to a “cooler” alternative.

Also, advertisers have to feel confident their reputation will not be tainted by “inappropriate” content. Teachers and parents are concerned that, because information on MySpace is publicly available, it might put teenagers in contact with predatory adults. In terms of retaining its appeal, Mr Chernin said users had to keep feeling the site was theirs. “We don’t want to change the fundamental look and feel of the site,” he said. “We do not want users to have any sense that it is corporatised.”

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indiedan
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posted April 20, 2006 09:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
AOL to launch MySpace killer

The online service wants to turn its instant-message software into a social-networking website. Plus: Is Microsoft hiding security flaws?

By Owen Thomas, Business 2.0 Magazine online editor and Oliver Ryan, Fortune reporter

April 20, 2006: 11:33 AM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) - The runaway success that MySpace has enjoyed after News Corp. (Research) bought it has the rest of the media world convinced of the value of social networking websites. Indeed, word on the street has been that Time Warner's (Research) AOL would use its AIM instant messenger as a platform to jump on the social networking bandwagon. The B2Day blog reported in March that the project was codenamed "AIMSpace" and was expected to launch in mid-April. AOL exec Tina Sharkey argued that AIM was already the "largest social network in the world." The rumors got a bit louder this morning as AOL program manager Armughan Javaid confirmed existence of AOL's MySpace killer, claiming the service "will be open for non-members, and it will be kick-ass!" A note to Javaid: If things don't work out with the new site, you might be able to find a new job through Murdoch's latest Internet investment, job search engine Simply Hired.

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indiedan
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posted May 09, 2006 03:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
MySpace founders among Webby winners
Google's map service wins three of annual Internet awards

The Associated Press
Updated: 4:27 p.m. ET May 9, 2006


NEW YORK - The founders of the popular social networking site MySpace.com are among the winners of this year's Webby online achievement awards.

Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe will receive an award next month for breakout of the year. The winners were announced Tuesday in advance of next month's ceremony.

Largely through word of mouth, their site now has nearly 77 million registered users and eclipses most Web sites in traffic, including Google Inc.'s search engine. It even got the attention of News Corp., the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, which bought Intermix Media Inc. for its MySpace business for $580 million in cash last year.

"Everyone is using it, from politicians to rock stars to students to people of all ages," said Tiffany Shlain, the founder of the Webby Awards, billed in some circles as the Oscars for the Internet.

She said the breakout category "is really about a site that becomes pervasive in our culture."

Other special-achievement recipients include Robert Kahn for lifetime achievement. Kahn, along with Vint Cerf, invented the Internet's key communications protocols, known as TCP/IP.

Thomas Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times and author of "The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century," was named person of the year.

The artist-of-the-year award went to Gorillaz, a cartoon-fronted rock group billed as a pioneer in fusing music and animation.

Mark Cuban, a billionaire Internet businessman who also owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, was named entrepreneur of the year. Organizers credited his role as an "evangelist for the power of technology to drive change."

Winners were named in about 70 other business, consumer and culture categories.

Google's map products won in three categories — for best visual design/function, for broadband and for services. Last year's breakout winner, Yahoo Inc.'s Flickr photo sharing site, won this year for best navigation/structure and best practices, while the company also picked up an honor for its podcasts.

The British Broadcasting Corp. won for community and news, and National Public Radio were honored for radio and religion/spirituality, namely its "This I Believe" audio segments.

The Katrina Help Center, a collaboration of Cisco Systems Inc. and the nonprofit One Economy, will receive an award for best charitable organization.

The awards, in their 10th year, are given by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a group of more than 550 experts on the Internet and other specialties, including musician David Bowie and RealNetworks Inc. Chief Executive Rob Glaser.

The award ceremony, scheduled for June 12 in New York, is known for its zany tone. Winners are limited to five-word acceptance speeches. Lifetime Achievement recipient Al Gore's speech drew laughs and headlines last year with "Please don't recount this vote."

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fred
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posted May 15, 2006 04:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
News Corp.' MySpace.com next week plans to begin offering $1.99-an-episode downloads of two seasons of the popular Fox drama "24." It also will offer free downloads of two episodes of "24" sponsored by Burger King Holdings.

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NEWSFLASH SUMMER INTERN
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posted May 16, 2006 10:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH SUMMER INTERN   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH SUMMER INTERN     Edit/Delete Message
MySpace.com Finds Space for Fox Shows


Social-networking site MySpace.com, bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp last year for $580 million, will mark a commercial debut of sorts on Monday, May 22 when it launches a section called "Have It Your Way." Featuring ads from Burger King, the section will give visitors the opportunity to download two free episodes of the Fox drama 24.They'll also be able to download the entire first and fifth seasons of the drama for $1.99 per episode.

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HollywoodProducer
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posted May 17, 2006 04:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for HollywoodProducer   Click Here to Email HollywoodProducer     Edit/Delete Message
Overgrown online

MySpace's meteoric growth might be its own undoing

By AMAN BATHEJA
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER

More than 400 Arlington Heights High School students are on MySpace.com. Summer Stoker isn't one of them.

The 18-year-old gave the networking site a try a few months ago. She was disappointed by what seemed like less of a social network and more of a popularity contest.

"It got too fake," Stoker said. "You have all these people saying they want to be your friend. It's just a waste of time."

The idea of the enormously popular MySpace falling out of favor among teens might seem unlikely. It's the third most-visited Web site in the country after Yahoo and Google, according to the Web traffic firm Alexa.

But at its core, MySpace is just another popular hangout, a digital version of the local mall, coffee shop or music store. And like those locales, its image can change as it grows more popular and its younger users could abandon it for the next new thing.

Some say MySpace's fast growth is destroying the site's sense of community, and a host of competitors hope to take advantage of the possible fallout.

"I think it's losing its value the bigger it gets," said Todd McGee, founder of the Dallas-based networking site GroupieTunes.com. "Having 30,000 friends on MySpace means nothing. There's no meaning behind it."

Web's full graveyard

The history of the Web is littered with once-happening online communities. From the WELL in the '80s to ICQ in the '90s and Friendster earlier this decade, online communities have had trouble sustaining their momentum for more than a few years.

Two years ago, MySpace was a social networking also-ran. With 1.5 million members, it was gaining attention but was not considered a serious challenger to Friendster, then the hottest site on the Web. More than 5 million people had joined Friendster to try out this concept of online social networking that offered the chance to turn your small clique into an expansive network of new connections and potential best buds.

Fast-forward two years. With more than 70 million members and growing fast, MySpace didn't so much beat Friendster as let Friendster choke on its dust. MySpace is one of the most popular sites online; Friendster ranks 67th, an impressive number if it hadn't once been expected to reach the top. Last year, media baron Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought MySpace for $580 million.

So why did Friendster fizzle?

The explanations vary, but most point to problems Friendster had with handling its unexpected growth. As interest in the site exploded, the once-lively network suddenly seemed cumbersome and impersonal, and Friendster was slow to respond to what users wanted, such as the ability to incorporate media into their profile.

"There's a kind of a fad or fashion element to this thing," said David Bell, an associate professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied the way trends spread online. Bell said Friendster's fall shows how quickly people can lose interest in an online community if they stop identifying with it.

No one with MySpace or Friendster would return requests for interviews for this story.

Interest in MySpace is still strong. The site has the highest retention rate among networking sites. According to the research firm Nielsen/Net Ratings, 67 percent of the site's unique visitors from March also visited the site in April.

The growth of MySpace and other social networkers has led other companies to try out the concept. Yahoo and Google have social-networking sites. AOL and Microsoft are developing their own.

Hunt for profits

In 2003, a Dallas Web entrepreneur named Alex Chang wanted in on the social-networking business.

He took money he had made from SpendOnLife.com, a financial-services Web site, and used it to launch Friendzy.com.

The all-purpose social-networking site attracted more than 50,000 members in six months. However, Chang had trouble turning the user base into profits.

"We poured $600,000 into Friendzy without having a completed business plan," Chang said. "I was a little naive."

Chang wasn't alone. Back then, most social-networking sites were betting on an unproven advertising model.

Of the many networks still striving for a future, three appear to have arisen as potentially sustainable businesses.

Along with all-purpose MySpace, LinkedIn, a network for business professionals, has more than 5.5 million members, and Facebook, a site aimed at college students, has more than 7 million members.

MySpace and Friendzy make money off advertising. LinkedIn charges subscription fees.

"All three are profitable or close," said Konstantin Guericke, a spokesman for LinkedIn. "They've emerged as real businesses."

The Web's ghost towns

Friendzy is still online, but the once-robust community is now a virtual ghost town. Chang hasn't worked on the site in months, although he often wonders whether he turned his back too soon.

Maybe more than the lack of a business model, he said, the problem was that Friendzy was trying to be all things to all users.

"I think a general social-networking site is played out," Chang said. If he were to relaunch the site, he would focus on a niche group of users.

That is the clear trend for new social-networking sites, all of which are hoping to capture the sense of commonality among users that an all-purpose site such as MySpace may have already lost.

Amanda Lenhart is a senior research specialist for the Pew Internet & American Life Project. She's studied how teens use the Internet since 1999.

Lenhart said MySpace's early adopters liked how the site helped them discover new bands who had profiles on the site. If the site loses its image as a destination for indie-music fans, it could spell trouble, she said.

"People on the bleeding edge who went to the site to learn about bands may not think it's so cool right now," Lenhart said, pointing to the publicity the site has received from its acquisition by News Corp. "It's gone from more of a funky upstart to more of a corporate institution."

Todd McGee has spent the past year developing GroupieTunes.com. It allows unsigned bands to interact with their fans in several ways, including selling their songs as ringtones.

"When MySpace first came out, it was kind of like us," McGee said. "It's become mainstream, and it's become too big. Basically, it's the Internet."

McGee plans to keep GroupieTunes from a similar fate by keeping it focused on music.

"It's about people with common interests and people connecting with each other," he said.

Haven for predators?

As MySpace has become the main destination for young people, a wide range of adults, from police to pedophiles, are monitoring their actions.

Reports have emerged from across the country of men caught trying to solicit the site's underage members for sex.

Last month, a Lewisville man was arrested in Keller for trying to solicit two 13-year-old girls through the site.

Meanwhile, authorities in Kansas last month were able to foil a possible school shooting by monitoring local MySpace users.

Seeing the potential for problems, Congress is considering a law that would require schools and libraries to bar social-networking sites from public computers.

Bell compared MySpace's safety issues to a small town growing into a big city. The larger population tends to lead to more crime and ultimately more surveillance by the authorities.

Lenhart noted that MySpace is trying a difficult balancing act by increasing its regulation of the site while still trying to give its members the freedom to do what they want.

"I think some people could see that MySpace is such a regulated space that they may choose to leave it," she said.

In response to the controversy, new sites like YFly.com are now touting safety and privacy as their top selling points. Other niche sites, meanwhile, hope to attract advertisers that have reportedly become wary of being associated with MySpace's more scandalous content.

"The teens' interest in working with advertisers is much lower," said Allie Savarino, head of Sisterwoman.com, a social network launched last month for adult women. Her site's older-user base "allows us to have a pretty confident set of advertisers coming," she said.

The next big thing

But the next big thing in social networking might not be a Web site at all but an entire virtual world.

A growing number of online games, called massive multiplayer online games or MMOGs, have begun gaining users who are not just fighting enemies but making friends.

Second Life allows members to not only interact in a virtual world but also hold events and start businesses. Even some support groups, like those for rape victims and stroke survivors, meet in the world created on the site.

Second Life now has about 205,000 "residents," up from 24,000 a year ago, said David Fleck, vice president of marketing of Second Life creator Linden Labs.

The growth of the site and others such as World of Warcraft point to the future of social networking, he said.

"We live in these 3-D worlds, so why do we want to gravitate to 2-D spaces?" Fleck said.

Fleck pointed to the evolution of video games, which first were two-dimensional but are now mainly more sophisticated three-dimensional fare. Social networking will be the same way, he said.

"We're all heading in that direction," Fleck said. "It's only a matter of time."

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fred
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posted May 18, 2006 10:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
AOL Enters Social-Network Fray

Playing catch-up with rivals like MySpace and Microsoft Corp., AOL has launched a social-networking site for its 43 million U.S. instant-messaging users. AIM Pages, which debuted last week, allow AIM users to chat with "buddies" while creating and searching profile pages similar to those on other leading social- networking sites. Users who sign up with their AIM user name on AIMPages.com can customize a profile page with photos; bloglike journal entries; and drag and drop features like polls, games and personalized content from third parties like YouTube and Netflix Inc. AOL, a unit of Time Warner Inc., says AIM Pages' integration with the AOL network sets it apart from rivals. But the company has some ground to make up. News Corp.'s MySpace attracted more than 48 million unique visitors last month and is the eighth most trafficked site on the Internet by unique monthly visitors, according to comScore Networks Inc. Facebook, a site geared toward college and high-school students, and Yahoo 360 also attract millions of unique visitors a month who go on to meet new friends, post messages and share photos. Those sites recently have begun to extend their reach. MySpace recently launched MySpace Messenger, software that allows members to send instant messages to their MySpace friends. Facebook Inc. also recently created a mobile version of its site that allows members to send messages to each other and look up friends' profile information from their phones. Microsoft also allows MSN Messenger users to view updates to their friends' MSN Spaces social-networking profiles through the service. The company says it is not concerned about the competition from AIM Pages. A spokesman for MySpace says it is too early to comment on whether AOL's offering poses a threat. Advertising revenue also is at stake as marketers court social-networking sites, despite concerns that such sites are hotbeds of online predators. AOL, whose first-quarter revenue fell 7% from the previous year to $2 billion due to lower subscription revenue, plans to offer a variety of advertising throughout the site such as the ability to promote sponsored pages through banner advertisements. AIM Pages also is taking some extra precautions to protect users. For example, users must be at least 16 years old, two years older than on MySpace.

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NEWSFLASH
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posted May 22, 2006 10:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Movie producers invest in social networking site
Mon May 22, 2006 10:50 AM ET

NEW YORK, May 22 (Reuters) - Longtime movie industry moguls Bob and Harvey Weinstein are the latest media players to invest in a social networking site, after the Weinstein Co. on Monday said it has taken an undisclosed stake in aSmallWorld.net.

The former founders of Miramax, led a group of other investors including Bob Pittman, former chief operating officer of AOL Time Warner Inc. <TWX.N>, to make a "significant investment" in the social networking site that can only be joined by an exclusive invitation from existing members.

aSmallWorld.net was founded in 2004 by Erik Wachtmeister, and is described by the company as an exclusive global online community of 130,000 members representing over 100 countries.

Wachtmeister said in a statement that the company's target audience is 3 million people who are well-educated, highly mobile and influential.

The investment by the Weinstein Company is the first that it has made in an online company. Last month, the company worked with online video site YouTube, to feature the first eight minutes of its thriller 'Lucky Number Slevin' to help promote the film.

Last July Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. <NWS.N> paid $580 million to acquire the leading social networking site MySpace.com. Several media companies including Viacom Inc. <VIA.N> have been linked with the potential acquisition of Facebook.com, a college-focused social networking site.

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fred
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posted May 22, 2006 05:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
New sites take aim at MySpace
Companies big and small launch social networking efforts

By Anick Jesdanun
The Associated Press
Updated: 12:58 a.m. PT May 21, 2006

NEW YORK - It's only natural for companies large and small to want to capture some of the social-networking magic of MySpace.com, a Web site that has risen out of nowhere to become the Internet's second busiest by successfully figuring out what teens and young adults want.

AOL joined the pack this month with its own take on social networking, a loose term for services that help users expand their circles of friends by exploiting existing connections, rather than meeting randomly or by keyword matches alone.

The rapid growth of MySpace and last year's purchase of its parent company by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. for $580 million "definitely accelerated something," said Greg Sterling, an industry analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence in Oakland, Calif.

"MySpace went from being this curiosity to a cultural phenomenon," Sterling said. "People started to think this is a really, really big opportunity."

MySpace offers a mix of features — message boards, games, Web journals — designed to keep its youth-oriented visitors clicking on its advertising-supported pages. The site has successfully built communities around music, becoming the go-to place for emerging bands, and it wants to replicate that success in film and comedy.


Driven largely by word of mouth, MySpace grew astronomically since its launch in January 2004 and is now second in the United States among all Web sites by total page views, behind only Yahoo Inc., according to comScore Media Metrix.

MySpace's user base more than quadrupled to nearly 80 million over the past year, with as many as 270,000 joining every day.

Yahoo even announced a home page redesign this week in part to fend off the rising threat, adding recommendations and insights about cultural trends culled from its community of 402 million users worldwide.

Others, mostly startups, are hoping to become the next-generation MySpace, offering more-robust, easier-to-use tools or specialized features for niches.

CollectiveX Inc. launched this month as a network for professionals and other pre-organized groups. Famoodle started in April as a MySpace for families. Relative newcomers Tagged Inc. and Varsity Media Group Inc.'s Varsity World are billing themselves as safe havens for teens.

Even the British Broadcasting Corp., seeing rival News Corp.'s successes, is revamping its Web site to incorporate more user-generated features.

AOL takes AIM
The most notable of the newcomers is AOL's AIM Pages, which is building upon its already substantial instant-messaging base of 49 million active users worldwide. Still, MySpace's number is higher — the active subset of registered users who logged on in March was 56 million, according to comScore.

"MySpace is doing phenomenally well," said James Bankoff, AOL's executive vice president for programming and products.

Nonetheless, Bankoff denied AOL was positioning AIM Pages as "a MySpace killer." Rather, he said, the entrance by Time Warner Inc.'s Internet unit "points to the trend of consumers wanting to express themselves in a more powerful way."

AIM users get a page customizable with any number of drag-and-drop modules for maps, Web journals and other features, including those from rivals like Yahoo's Flickr photo site. By contrast, MySpace users must deal with HTML programming code to customize.

The offering, available in a beta test mode, underscores AOL's history of playing down innovation in favor of waiting until the masses are ready. It wants to be easy, not necessarily first.

MySpace wasn't first, either. But it surpassed Friendster Inc. in monthly visitors just a half-year after formally launching.

Analysts note that if Friendster can fall, so can MySpace.

"It's like the one hot bar or restaurant everybody descends upon," Sterling said. "Then it gets cold and people leave it."


MySpace, whose press representatives said executives were unavailable for interviews, has been continually adding features, including just recently a test version of an instant-messaging program and the hit TV show "24" as free and for-pay downloads.

Potential rivals insist they are doing more.

TagWorld Inc. and Freewebs Corp. let users build entire Web sites, not just single profile pages. Both see themselves as people's hubs for music, photos and video, while many MySpace users embed in their profile pages digital items stored elsewhere.

A Microsoft Corp. spinoff company, though mum on specifics, plans to launch Wallop later this year with promises of helping people better interact more like they would in the real world. (MSNBC.com is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

That's also the thinking behind CollectiveX.

"CollectiveX doesn't expand or create communities," founder Clarence Wooten said. "It empowers existing communities."

So members of pre-existing groups, such as a homeowners association, could use CollectiveX to communicate and meet one another — but only if someone they already know introduces them.

Groups are visible only to their members, and even within groups, a person's friends and colleagues are described only by title, not by name. By contrast, MySpace makes most profiles publicly viewable and users easily reachable.

Social networking goes niche
Meanwhile, some startups see MySpace as the new mass media — too big to appeal to any one demographic group well.

Adir Levy figures that once people get married, they're no longer keen on meeting new faces on MySpace, where about a quarter of the users are minors. So he developed Famoodle as a site for families to connect and expand existing relations.

"We definitely don't see us as becoming as big as MySpace, but we see ourselves as being the MySpace for the more mature crowd," said Levy, 25, who's getting married this year.

Others are targeting teens, the group that has turned MySpace into a lightning rod for warnings about the dangers posed by sexual predators on the Internet.

At Varsity World, moderators screen most writings, photos and other materials before posting. Tagged has features — among them, a weekly celebrity lookalike contest — likely to be seen as immature by even college students, said its founder, Greg Tseng.

"MySpace and the industry as a whole is really in the first inning," Tseng said.

MySpace's 80 million users is but a fraction of the estimated global online population of 1 billion.

Charlene Li, an analyst at Forrester Research, said users also can have multiple profiles at multiple sites — the way they may belong to separate school, work, neighborhood and church networks in the offline world.

But not everyone will have time to keep up. In fact, only about 60 percent of MySpace's U.S. registered users visited the site in April, according to calculations of data from MySpace and Nielsen/NetRatings.

"You may have four or five e-mail addresses, but you use two of them," Sterling said. "You're going to go to one or two places. You're not going to go to four."

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