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Myspace – why so successful?

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Monday April 3, 2006 )

If you haven’t heard of MySpace by now or aren’t curious about it, I guess you don’t have teenage kids :). I’ve read that it’s now the 2nd most popular site on the web in terms of page views, even eclipsing Google. If you’ve seen some of the MySpace member pages, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.

Growth of the MySpace community has been nothing short of phenomenal – this Alexa traffic ranking graph displays an interesting glimpse of the rocket ride.

MySpace currently has 66 million members, with around 250,000 new signups every 24 hours according to this article on CNN.

But back to “why”? Some of the member profiles (actually, many) I’ve seen look like the product of some Lovecraftian nightmare!

According to Danah Boyd, who has published a very interest study on the psychology behind the MySpace phenomena; it’s not just about belonging to a group, but having a common place to belong “in” and where communication with others is quick and easy.

It’s a place where teens can experiment with their identity and reinvent themselves whenever they please – an important part of growing up. Given the size of the membership, it gives these kids so many options for finding the crowd whose values they are most comfortable with – whether that group exists in their neighborhood or on the other side of the planet.

Even the many teens who don’t particularly like MySpace still have profiles as that’s where all their friends are – resistance is futile if you want to remain up to date with your “tribe”.

Thinking back to my own childhood, we had many places to hang out with our friends. But as the world became a more dangerous place and also intolerant of groups teens hanging out in public places, they’ve been forced to seek out their refuges online. The founder of MySpace has been very clever in tapping into what teens want from their refuge; and also in understanding that it’s a place where adults are considered the outsiders – even if it is the adults who provide the tools they use.

The MySpace member pages are not about W3C standards, well developed content, complementary colors or even literacy; they are about expressing identity in the way that suits the members best, both as individuals and as members of a tribe. It’s just social networking in hormone overdrive; and I don’t mean that in a nasty way.

Bands have really taken to MySpace and the “kids” love it – they can legally add songs, videos and images from their favorite bands to their MySpace page quickly and easily. It’s not just teeny-bopper bands that have tapped into the MySpace membership, but some huge names from the past who are able to gain increased exposure to a new generation. Many of the participating bands have generated substantial revenue through having this conduit to communicate with their fans.

If your market is teens or 20 somethings, MySpace is definitely the place to be. You can advertise on their network (I’m not sure of the costs), or start your own MySpace page. But remember, it’s their world, not yours. You’re really going to have to walk the walk and talk the talk to crack that crowd.

It’s definitely a world unto itself with it’s own jargon and culture, a world I’m just beginning to learn about through my daughters and my partner who recently became a MySpace junkie – fascinating stuff.

Before you take the leap into MySpace, I highly recommend reading Danah Boyd’s article first – it’s a great primer on the MySpace culture and will help you to understand what you see on your first visit to the site :).


11 comments for Myspace – why so successful?
  1. Just an added snippet. It appears that MySpace recently deleted 200,000 “objectionable” profiles in a reaction to concerns expressed by parents and community leaders of nasty stuff and predators amongst the MySpace member pages.

    I think that some of the panic over MySpace, while there is cause for concern, is somewhat exaggerated. “Bad” humans are everywhere, and parents need to accept some responsibility for mentoring their children in online activities too, but it is great to see that the founders of MySpace trying to address the issues.

    This “purge” isn’t without it’s risks. According to another article on CNN Money, when Friendster took the same sort of action, there was a huge exodus from the service. But with nearly a quarter of million new signups each day, it’s unlikely that the same will occur to MySpace – it still appears to be very much in snowball phase.

    Comment by Michael Bloch — April 4, 2006 @ 3:43 am

  2. Just added another post in my continuing series on the MySpace phenomenon:

    Social networking – MySpace (pt.2)

    Comment by Michael Bloch — April 24, 2006 @ 5:02 am

  3. Myspace has become “the” place for teens of today to converge. Back when i was growing we had our hangout places, but todays youths are much more informed and tech savvy. Today youth needs are different and at times very demanding. Tom Anderson has become a virtual celebrity with merits. I mean what a brilliant idea, and imagine the revenue he must bring in from advertisers. The site has 60 plus million youngsters. Thats a block of potential ipods, electronics, and lots of tech gadget consumers.

    Comment by Jack — May 15, 2006 @ 12:08 pm

  4. Hi Jack,

    I hear that MySpace only gets around 10c CPM from advertisers, but on that scale… :) ka-ching. I don’t know Tom personally, but something that really bugs me are the sometimes very nasty rumors about him that get around the place – really poisonous stuff. They are so varied and numerous, if they were all true, then the man could would be pure evil personified :).

    I guess that’s the danger of achieving that level of success – people want to take potshots and it doesn’t seem to matter how it’s done.

    Credit where credit is due I feel, and in Mr. Anderson’s case, he (and the MySpace team) definitely deserve some respect. We can all learn some very valuable lessons from them about social networking concepts; especially when it comes to a youth market.

    I thought this article on MySpace was going to be a one-time only post, but I’m still fascinated by it and there’s been a lot of interest according to my stats, so I’ll continue to cover MySpace related topics quite regularly for a while.

    Comment by Michael Bloch — May 16, 2006 @ 5:41 am

  5. Hi,

    Being of this generation myself (I’m 14 right now), I can see what you’re getting at, and everything you say is pretty much true. What I really don’t understand about MySpace is how it got to be so big! Many of the profile pages are terrible, but that’s understandable as they’re user built, but in actual fact the main structure of the site isn’t in the best shape either. The amount of times I’ve had error messages – it’s so so buggy it’s unbelievable! How come teens didn’t go for a better alternative site for networking? There’s enough of them out there…

    Comment by Andrew Normington — January 27, 2007 @ 3:59 pm

  6. Hi Andrew, welcome. I think a lot of MySpace’s current success lies in the fact it was a pioneer in social networking. They gained a lot of momentum in a very short space of time before competitors could get a foothold and it became somewhat of a snowball effect. I think another key to their success was their catering to bands, big and small. Even less popular bands still have a following, then if you multiply that by thousands, the figures start really adding up. Sometimes the best product isn’t always the most popular – MySpace figured out very early in the piece how to harness the power of word-of-mouth/viral marketing.

    Comment by Michael Bloch — January 27, 2007 @ 4:33 pm

  7. I think the reason MySpace became popular when it did was because it reached out to bands, which were/are an important element of teen culture. I, being an older adult, first heard of MySpace by seeing links on band webpages to the band’s myspace profile.

    This intersected a trend in the music world in which the heavily promoted “star” system was beginning to break down and a greater emphasis was beginning to be placed on locally popular bands and independently produced “DIY” music. This was an era where being in a band, trying to be in a band, wishing you were in a band, or being fans of a (local) band were all growing teen activities. MySpace was the first site to really take off among the teen music community. This, IMO, pushed it ahead of sites like Xanga which, again IMO, actually had more appeal for those who were design oriented and wanted to present an artistically customized site.

    So I think bands made myspace big. Then it went from big to huge just because it was already big.

    Once it reached a critical threshold, people started to get on because so many people were already on (I got my profile after a couple of teenage friends showed me theirs, just so I could read their blogs and comment).

    Just a thought,

    P.S. There is a much more famous Steve Crocker who helped invent the Internet. I am not him.

    Comment by Steve Crocker — February 9, 2007 @ 6:10 am

  8. Hi Steve, thanks for adding your views – I’d certainly agree that the bands aspect was a stroke of brilliance on MySpace’s part.

    Comment by Michael Bloch — February 9, 2007 @ 3:24 pm

  9. I would like to submit that myspace indeed is playing a large and detrimental toll on the youth involved with the site. I myself am a recovering addict from myspace : )

    Although Myspace may seem to many meerly to be a place “where teens can experiment with their identity and reinvent themselves whenever they please – an important part of growing up,” I would venture to say that the system of (online) networking is not a healthy one.

    If one so chooses to create a Myspace account, they are immediately asked to make decisions about what their preferences are. The problem is that teenagers are still in the middle of figuring out what exactly their preferences are. When there suddenly is a mandate for them to make such decisions so quickly, their natural growth and development patterns become very hurried and unnatural. This is simply not the way growing up should happen and surely takes a toll on those involved (believe me, I know).

    Maybe Myspace isn’t altogether a bad thing, but it definitely has the potential to be harmful.

    Anyone else worried about this?

    -Deb : )

    Comment by Deb — April 4, 2007 @ 3:20 pm

  10. Hi Deb, thanks for your comments. I guess MySpace is a bit like a large peer group, or a multitude of large peer groups – and as with any group, there’s good and bad; with the bad able to exert great negative influence. I do think that parents need to monitor their kids’ activities out there more closely and I think some young people’s forays into MySpace will be looked back upon much the same way I look back upon my misspent youth – with a shiver running up my spine :). I guess too that the choices that they make in their profiles can also make them targets of the underbelly of the membership at a time of their lives, like you said, when they are really only just beginning to formulate who they are and it’s all subject to change.

    Comment by Michael Bloch — April 5, 2007 @ 4:50 am

  11. I would like to add that while this article/comments is youth oriented, there is a growing pop of adults (myself included) that have joined the ranks of MySpacers. In our case at least, friends and family have found it’s a great way to stay connected in a world so scattered, to share and enjoy piks, life stories etc. without jamming up email boxes. I think the oldest member of our little “tribe” is 67 ;)

    Comment by G — August 26, 2007 @ 10:27 am

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