Can Justin Timberlake Revive MySpace?

MySpace is in dire need of a social media face lift and Justin Timberlake is just the man to do it.

MySpace, the fallen leader of social media, has just been bought for the second time in less than ten years. Sold for $580 million in 2005, MySpace was just recently sold again to Specific Media for $35 million this year. Proven in numbers, MySpace, like any new fad, has rapidly faded to the back of the line. What was once the most popular social network, according to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, is now the least used as compared to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The site, once praised for its networks and customization, has faced the grim reaper of society: age.

According to the article, Social Network Site Changes Over Time, MySpace attracted the demographic of teenagers best through its customizable experience. The article justifies the appeal through the idea that teenagers are an impressionable group because they value identity so highly. The original MySpace interface allowed users to not only tailor their information, but to personalize their graphics, the background and their music. Music, a form of expression and major source of identity for teens, serves as MySpace’s best ally. It may even be what saves it.

One report suggests that MySpace will be one of 12 brands that we will see disappear by 2012. Justin Timberlake thinks otherwise. Part owner of the Specific Media, the popular singer/actor sees a glimpse of potential within the MySpace context. To some this may seem strange, but Timberlake is no stranger to the business trade. As Chairman and CEO of Tennman Records, a musical venture in partnership with Interscope Records, Timberlake has had his hand at finding young talent online. One popular artist is YouTube sensation Esmee Denters. In collaboration with Specific Media, Timberlake plans to implement what he knows best into the reconstruction of their latest purchase.

The Timberlake team recognizes MySpace’s niche market: independent musicians. One popular artist, Colbie Caillat, can attribute her success to the original MySpace. Through the built-in music player feature, the singer/songwriter collected over 22 million plays, the most MySpace has ever seen for an unsigned artist. She didn’t remain unsigned for long.

It was the success of artists like Caillat that inspire the most recent MySpace facelifts. Just last fall in October 2010, MySpace was rebranded as the social entertainment destination. After a very apparent failed launch, Specific Media stepped in. It has been reported that Timberlake hopes to make a talent competition out of the MySpace remains. Could this be what MySpace needs?

MySpace was hurt most by what it does best. Because it can be so tailored, users caked on their own personalities and in turn, branded MySpace. While the decline of the MySpace fad can be attributed to age, Facebook is also held responsible as a driving force in the shift. With its simple and clean interface, Facebook’s design is more as functional and timeless as compared to MySpace. MySpace allowed its users to paint its own face. The amount of control users’ had became a volatile risk and in the end, it was the kiss of death. Facebook simply had the stronger brand.

In my opinion, if done correctly, this rebrand will work as it plans to tap into its niche market of unsigned music artists. Because of the size of this audience, we will never see MySpace grow to the size of Facebook, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see it succeed. It is the idea of the long tail. It will work because it serves a small, niche market that can be satisfied with more tailored approach.  Justin Timberlake is a smart man.