Could Myspace ever make a comeback?

Myspace is still going, and it has a secret weapon that it’s banking on to return to its former glory.

Peter Iantorno January 6, 2016

Remember the first time you ever logged on to Myspace? Remember getting a notification with a photo of a geeky guy in a white shirt turning around from a pen-scrawled whiteboard who wanted to be your friend?

Where ‘Myspace Tom’ (original company president Tom Anderson) led, your real-life friends soon followed, and before you knew it your profile was buzzing with activity and you were discovering new and exciting indie bands like Arctic Monkeys and promising young DJs such as Calvin Harris along the way.

Those were heady days for Myspace. Such was its success that just two years after its inception in 2003, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp splashed out a then-astonishing $580 million to take control of the company. In 2006 it became the most-visited site in the US and by 2007 the website was valued at a jaw-dropping $12 billion.

Calvin Harris.jpg Calvin Harris shot to international stardom after being discovered on Myspace.

Of course, we all know what happened next. While Myspace remained largely static, with its only major updates designed to allow more advertising with seemingly no thought to the user experience, new and exciting social media site Facebook began to gain some traction.

A mass exodus to Facebook ensued, and by 2011, with the site in disarray and user numbers dwindling, Myspace was offloaded for a measly $35 million – some $545 million less than the purchase price and a world away from the eye-watering $12 billion valuation placed on the site at the height of its powers.

Our strategy is really simple... We can simply send an email to a billion users at a moment's notice.

The company that took a punt on the ailing giant goes by the name of Specific Media, which notably is backed by American singer Justin Timberlake – seemingly a perfect fit given that arguably his best days are behind him, too.

In 2013 the site relaunched with a slick new design and its ace in the pack: the world premiere of Timberlake’s first single in seven years. After just two weeks online in its new incarnation, Myspace had drawn more than 31 million unique visitors. 

Justin Timberlake.jpg Justin Timberlake is part of the team trying to resurrect the company.

While those impressive figures were clearly aided by masses of Timberlake fans eager to hear from their idol after the seven-year hiatus, the 2014 statistics show that it was more than just launch buzz. 

During the year the site’s traffic grew by more than 400 per cent and it also crossed another significant milestone: the total number of users ever registered on Myspace passed 1 billion, which more importantly means that the company has access to more than 1 billion email addresses.

"Our strategy is really simple," company CEO Tim Vanderhook told VICE in a 2015 interview. "Every time we have something relevant to say or offer, we leverage our archive of registered users and email aggressively.

"Having a direct relationship with that many users means we aren't reliant on Google's search algorithm or Facebook's newsfeed to pull in traffic like many popular forms of media today. We can simply send an email to a billion users at a moment's notice when we're ready to launch something and entice them to check out what we're offering. And with the information we possess on people, we have a much greater ability to reach out and be relevant to them again."

Tim Vanderhook.jpg Myspace CEO Tim Vanderhook (left) with his brother, Chris, and Justin Timberlake.

Despite these signs of life, the road to recovery is never going to be a smooth one for a tech company with such a turbulent history. Mismanagement has followed Myspace wherever it has gone - the company famously twice turned down the chance to buy out Facebook, once for just $75 million back in 2004 and then again for $750 million in 2005.

The Myspace brand is, at least, a known one that people generally recognise. However, there’s an argument to be made that the best thing for Myspace would be to shed its name, for as long as those who can remember the site in its original iteration remain the target audience, the association with the doomed brand will always be there.

Of course, while the brand name carries a certain amount of importance, it pales into insignificance when compared to the real issue: those email addresses. At the moment, that billion-strong list of email addresses is being treated as a key weapon in the Myspace arsenal which, on the face of it, gives the company massive pulling power.

Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg twice offered to sell his company to Myspace, but both times the deal broke down.

But there’s just one problem. The vast majority of those email addresses are from the salad days of Myspace, when the site was young and fresh and its massive user base was even younger. Since then the average Myspace user has left school, gone through university and got a job and that means, in all likelihood, they had to change their email address from the one they had picked out when they were 13 because they thought it was funny.

While Myspace is at pains to shout about its mammoth collection of email addresses and personal information, no figures have been released about how much of that is still relevant today, and presumably that proportion is tiny at best.

So, will Myspace ever make a comeback? If it does, it certainly won’t be by virtue of a billion old email addresses.