MySpace: Unstoppable Force or Unnecessary Click Factory?

So I just read the big article about MySpace in today’s New York Times and it got me thinking a lot about growth, monetization, and user experience. People always talk so much about how many pages MySpace serves up and how that represents such dramatic growth.

After playing with the thing for a few weeks and writing a hugely ridiculous article on customizing it, one thing has really stuck out to me: there are a tremendous amount of extraneous page views being generated at that place. It’s a factory of unnecessary clicks. And so when one would view MySpace’s current page view trends on Alexa, one would see this:

Here’s a sobering thought: If the operators of MySpace cleaned up the site and followed modern interface and web application principles tomorrow, here’s what the graph would look like:

(Editor’s Note: I originally fat-fingered the first graph above when uploading it and used the Reach graph by mistake. Fixed. Both graphs show the exact same curve, however. Thanks to Owen Thomas of Business 2.0 for the heads-up.)

That’s right. I hold that at least 2/3rds of page views would disappear. Here’s what I mean. This would be the flow in a, say, Google-engineered network experience:

1. Click over to “GoogSpace”, or whatever we want to call it. (+1 page view)
2. Click through to read and reply to all mail (0)
3. Visit a few friends’ pages (+3)
4. Edit my profile page (+1)

That’s about 5 registered page views. The rest of the interaction comes from XML/HTTP requests.

Here’s the same sequence on MySpace:

1. Click over to MySpace. (+1 page view)
2. Log in, because MySpace doesn’t remember logins very well. (+2)
3. Click through to read and reply to all mail… about three per mail. (+21)
4. Visit a few friends’ pages. (+3)
5. Reload a few pages because of server errors. (+3)
5. Edit my profile page. (+10)

That’s about 40 registered page views… and it’s not an atypical pattern at all, from what I’ve found. Many people have also mentioned that web-based IM generates a ton of clicks for them as well.

So what’s my point? Well, first and foremost, the “cost” of running a web site that maximizes interaction and yet sacrifices page views in the name of user experience can be staggeringly high. If any layperson or out-of-touch analyst looked at the second graph above out of the blue, they’d think MySpace had run into something awful. And I only chopped the page views by 2/3rds. It could be a lot more.

Now, ordinarily you’d look at this as a very bad thing for MySpace. Essentially generating extremely “low quality” page views left and right. But the New York Times article said MySpace’s pages were selling for a paltry $.10 CPM. Ten cents! That means I could buy 5 million page views for $500 on the second-most popular site on the internet! As forensic expert and O.J. Simpson defense witness Henry Lee once said: “Something wrong here.”

In addition to the low CPM, MySpace ad inventory is apparently not selling out, which means they could perhaps deal with some page view shrinkage at this time. The problem, however, is that less page views does not mean automatically higher CPMs. It does when people are beating down your door and you’re oversold all over the place, but not when you’re lowering prices just to keep ads populated around the site.

So hypothetically, if MySpace went from 30 billion page views a month to 10 billion page views a month overnight due to some much needed site modernization, what would the consequences be? On the product side, it would be unquestionably positive. Better user experience equals much greater user happiness and stickiness. On the economic side though, it’s a little less clear.

There are three conditions a site can be in: undersold, sold out, or oversold.

Let’s take the undersold situation; the situation MySpace is currently in. According to the NYT article, they are doing about 30 billion page views per month and are not sold out. Let’s just say that hypothetically they are *close* to sold out and they have about two ads per page… so maybe 50 billion ad impressions per month. At a $.10 CPM, that’s $5 million. But we know that the average CPM on MySpace is probably higher and we know that they will take in about $200 million this year (or $16.6 million per month), so that’s about an average CPM of about $.33 (at this point, we’re in conjecture mode). So given our new inventory of only 20 billion page views a month, after user experience optimizations, that’s $6.6 million a month. But since there are so many less impressions available now, can they charge a bit more than $.33 CPM? Probably. Bump that up to a dollar and you’re already ahead of where you were, revenue-wise, before you optimized.

(Edit: I just re-read the article and 10 cents is not the bottom price but rather the average price, so if MySpace is bringing in $16.6 million a month, that means they are selling 166 billion ad impressions a month… which they don’t have. So let’s say they have 50 billion ad impressions to sell at $.10 CPM. That’s only $5 million. Either a ton of MySpace’s revenue is *not* coming from CPM ads (entirely possible), or I am seriously forgetting how to do math.)

Now, the scenario above is only true if you’re in the situation MySpace is in, unfortunately. Way more page views than you know what to do with and massively undersold from a price/quantity standpoint. Take any of their competitors, or really any company who is earning decent CPMs and doing ok on ad inventory, and you could almost never dream of eliminating a ton of your page views. This is a dilemma companies face every day when deciding if and when to replace precious but inefficient page refreshes with more user-friendly Ajax calls.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, I hold that MySpace is in a unique position right now because of the numbers they are putting up combined with the fact that they are now owned by an $18 billion company, and the absolute best thing they can do right now is reduce their inventory by reducing their page views. Or at least reduce them “per action” on the site and continue to grow their user base. The founders have already had their big liquidity event so there’s certainly no need to create artificial page views to make yourself look better to suitors anymore.

As for additional streams of revenue and monetizing MySpace further, I’d drop the hope that companies will purchase pages that users will want to “friend” and concentrate on more on turning each and every kid into a walking product endorser. In fact, if I wasn’t running Newsvine right now, that’s the business I’d be in.

I know everyone says MySpace is this unstoppable force that will always be as popular as it is right now, but if I’m them, I’m more paranoid than that. The only company I know of that can stay consistently a step and a half ahead of pop culture is Apple, and even *they* do it to a large extent with user experience.

If you believe Malcolm Gladwell’s principles from The Tipping Point, you believe that all it takes is the right group of 50 influential kids in New York City to start using another social networking service and the pendulum will begin to swing. That’s what people like Fred Krueger and Ted Leonsis think, and although I’m not sure whether or not they’ll be the ones to do it, I certainly believe in the fragility of it all.

94 comments on “MySpace: Unstoppable Force or Unnecessary Click Factory?”. Leave your own?
  1. Evan says:

    good thoughts, mike

  2. Tigerblade says:

    One thing you may not be aware of… a LOT of people are already starting to become disenchanted with MySpace. Don’t get me wrong, it’s obviously still immensely popular, but there’s a growing movement of upper-teens and low-twenties people who got sucked into the big rush of signing up on MySpace and are now starting to drift away from it.

    Part of it is simply the fact that it’s so unbelievably inefficient, as you mention here. Just to get in takes a while – with the repeated logins and whatnot. Login, and then roughly 40 pages later you’re finally able to do things. Another 130 or so pages later and maybe you’ve gotten to a friend’s profile. Ok so those numbers are slightly exaggerated, but the idea is there. Another factor is the sheer ugliness of it all. Sure we can customize our pages like in your previous article (thanks for that, by the way!), but the people who have presentable profiles represent a tiny sliver of the mob that is MySpace.

    How many of these people will actually leave MySpace for good… who knows. I know I’ve already deleted or hidden most of my profile, but I have to admit I’m addicted to checking for messages. There will always be the tweens who go on the site daily to check others’ blogs and post their own, but the 18+ crowd is starting to get frustrated with it. (I’m 21, for reference).

  3. NumbersGuy says:

    At least 75% of the MySpace “pageviews” in my clickstream are total crap (either redirects or advertising loaded in iframes).

    I thought the same when I read the part about getting people to “friend” brands. Why do that when kids are already so willing to incorporate brands and logos into their page, either through widgets or as the basis for those garish templates? MAC Cosmetics and Louis Vuitton are two I’ve noticed.

    Currently, I would imagine MySpace users are either doing this on their own for the coolness factor, or marketing dollars are being paid out to users and/or template designers to create and post these branded templates.

    Why doesn’t MySpace try to own this market? Have a featured template area with branded templates and widgets that you sell to advertisers at a premium CPM. After all, it’s product placement blended seamlessly with content and more compelling than a banner ad, no? Riffing off Newsvine, you could offer users a share of the advertising revenue based on the pageviews they generate. It would also bring at least some of the guerilla marketing that occurs under the radar out in the open into a more transparent affiliate program.

  4. Corey Spring says:

    I would not be suprised if dethroned myspace as the king of social networking in a couple years – I just get the distinct impression that they know what they are doing a lot more than the folks at myspace do. At myspace, features are almost constantly ‘broken’ and while they allow for customization on their user pages, as you have pointed out before, the result is often awful looking. Mostly, I base that entirely on my own biased experiences with each site, though. =P

  5. Good points Mike.
    Another thing they’d benefit from is their revenue per transaction would rise dramatically (each user eats up less bandwidth= less $), lower bandwidth costs would ultimately make a decent impact on their service and user experience. So their new model of higher $ per transaction they are charging, and their reduced costs would do wonders for their bottom line. as far as their fragility, its not that easy to get 30million users, look at their competitors, few have anywhere near as many active users.
    either way, great points.

  6. Mike D. says:

    Good information, Tigerblade and NumbersGuy.

    Corey: Funny you should mention the broken features. I remember trying to send someone an Instant Message when I first signed up a few weeks ago and saw an error message. I just tried again and the message is still there:

    “The IM is busted. It’s not working. It is going to take a few weeks to fix. I will post an announcement when its fixed. -Tom”

    “The IM is busted.” I don’t know why, but that just makes me chuckle.

  7. Miko W. says:

    Well, either way, we all know what the eventual solution is: more ads!

  8. Billy says:

    Pretty tricky stuff but what would you expect from such a shallow and fickle segment of the web.

    I have not seen a myspace yet that had any redeeming content whatsoever. I would not be surprised if it dies a quick death to be replaced by a similar service with cleaner interface. Of course this scenario will be repeated ad infinitum until the world as we know it comes to an end.

  9. Eliot says:

    Busted. Seems like every time I post a comment to a blog entry or a person, I have to try a few times before the server errors go away.

    It blows my mind that something so technically poor can catch on so well. Pointing out Gladwell’s point of the influential 50 people is dead on. I wish flickr or some other nicely done site would be so addictive as MySpace AND have the crowd.

    Problem with facebook: I can’t use it since I’ve already graduated college and no longer have an email address at my school. They won’t let you register unless you have an email address at a domain that matches the schools they have sites for.

  10. britt says:

    couple of points to keep in the back of your head.

    the average ‘kiddo’ using myspace could care less about a cleaner interface. They aren’t on myspace to have a clean interface experience, they are on myspace to horde friends and bands, comment on each others profiles, and send private messages to their next hot hookup.

    Regarding page customization, 99% of the 75million users have no clue about webdesign, much less what is possible from a design / html standpoint. If they can change their text to pink, they’re happy, if they can make their text have a line through it (strikethrough) their happy, if they can throw a repeating background image of the lead singer of some punk emo band — they’re happy!!!
    I laugh everytime somebody asks me if I know ‘MySpace codes

    If i were myspace, id make sure that private messages were always working, comments were always working, image galleries were always working, and just stay put. The users are on myspace to interact with others, not to have a pretty page…a pretty page just happens to be a bonus

  11. Mike D. says:

    britt: You’re right, however, tastes and standards generally start out low and increase over time. You’re right in that the *most* important thing on MySpace is to be able to communicate with people and express yourself, but once there is something close to parity somewhere else on the web, that’s when people start to re-evaluate.

    “What is this other place?” “What can I do here?” “Ooooh, this is nice.” “I should invite my friends.”

    It’s a *very* tough place for any competitor to get to, but if there’s one area that just about anybody can beat MySpace on, it’s overall user experience (if social factors are equal).

  12. Jeff Croft says:

    MySpace + Lack of sucking = Facebook.

  13. NumbersGuy says:

    Britt — right on.

    Anyone proclaiming the death of MySpace based purely on sucky design has obviously never had to deal with the web design preferences of clients, who can be counted upon to pick the wrong mockup 100% of the time! It’s striking how little understanding there is — beyond the design community — on what makes a good site design work.

    And maybe that’s how it should be. Let the users judge a site on functionality, and leave the pretty pictures to the designers.

    Google is ultra-clean and MySpace is ultra-cluttered, and yet they’ve both had phenomenal success. Maybe it’s the functionality stupid.

  14. MySpace is the Internet Explorer of social networking apps:

    It is the most poorly done popular website on the web, yet everybody uses it.

    I think I was reading the comments on your past post when a former designer of MySpace said that Tom won’t let anybody change the interface or code of MySpace. Of course this is because it is very successful and number of sign-ups are increasing exponentially. But it’s preposterous to think they’ll be around for a long time with that attitude.

    To stay on top you are going to have to stay ahead of the curve and they are not doing that by any means. I guarantee within the next year, somebody else is going to come out with a “MySpace Killer” (I doubt it will be AOL) and blow MySpace out of the water. They have no competition which is why they have not changed anything. They have no reason improve anything when there’s no motivation to make it better.

    Speaking hypothetically, Just think if a company like 37signals that are web app pros built a myspace killer? It would not take much innovation to improve upon MySpace’s clunky crappy interface and funtionality.

    Most people hate MySpace as a website, but loves the idea of what MySpace brings. I know I do, I’ve met a ton of old friends on there that I would of never spoken to if it weren’t for MySpace. But, everybody is sick of tired of the same old “Unexpected Errors” and login troubles. The community can go elsewhere, but elsewhere hasn’t came along yet.

  15. gb says:

    I’d love to see a clean alternative to myspace (as I die a little inside every time I use the site), but perhaps the most difficult hurdle any new alternative will face is that reality distortion field of “but… everyone’s on myspace.” It seems like all my non-technical friends hate myspace as a user experience, but they would die without the superficial contact it gives them with their “friends.” If they were to uproot and move to a new system, the transition period would kill them. It’s as though you had a 15-21 year old and took away text messaging for 6 months, only allowing them to use, god forbid, IRC. They wouldn’t know what to do with themselves until they learned to cope and eventually forced all their friends to get on the IRC bus.

    In any case, such a jump requires a lot of egging on and hand holding for the vast majority of the myspace user base. If all their friends aren’t doing it, they’d rather just groan at myspace and bear it.

  16. Calvin Tang says:

    You hang out on MySpace way too much for someone of your age ;)

    (Editor’s Note: Don’t be surprised if there is syrup on your chair at work tomorrow, Calvin.)

  17. robK says:

    Being one of those late 20-somethings, I see MySpace as kind of a necessary evil. Many of those friends that I don’t normally call or email have MySpace pages and that is how we stay in contact. If I could have the same casual connection on any other site, I’d leave 10 minutes ago.

    I feel like they’ve got about 6 months to make a massive interface change or they are done. The way internet trends go, they may be done anyway. But they have the crowd now, so giving us a better look and feel on the function they provide would certainly give the site some longevity.

    I’m definitely in the crowd that thinks a site like this will never last longer than it takes for the cool kids to find someplace new.

  18. Andy Kant says:

    I know plenty of people that are dropping MySpace already primarily due to the awful user experience (the interface and all those extra page views gets to you after a while). The newer versions of Facebook have gotten better and better. Since Facebook changed to a new design (which is very elegant, simple, and well designed), all of their forms have been changed to AJAX, they’ve added loads of new features, and they’ve even expanded outside of college which pretty much opens it up to everyone. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Facebook take the lead in the near future, they’re already pretty high up there.

    Oh man, don’t even get me started on the MySpace malicious scripting and customization abilities. Every little emo high-schooler’s page has up to 5 music videos on it.

  19. Jeff Croft says:

    While I am not at all doubting the success of MySpace, I’ve spent the last several years of my life in University towns, and I can say with absolutle certainly that Facebook’s popularity with the traditional college demographic beats MySpace’s by a longshot.

    What this says to me is that there is hope. Not everyone has a choice to use Facebook (since Facebook requires you to have an offoicial college e-mail address to join), but it sure seems like those who do are making the smart choice. Facebook is proof that if you build it (well), they will come.

    Facebook’s decision to stay closed to the general public is both it’s greatest weakness and greatest strength. By requiring valid college e-mail addresses, they are ensuring that each granted account is a one-to-one match with a real, live human being. As such, there are no girls that look like Paris Hilton, live 7000 miles from me, and have 12,432 friends on their list trying to add me. There are no bands and local bars that I haven’t heard of (nor want to) trying to to add me. There aren’t 60 year old sexual predators preying on the girls on my friend list. There aren’t 13 year olds posing as 18 year olds leaving comments on my profile page.

    And the “realness” of Facebook is only one advantage of it. I won’t even bother mentioning the great tools (their photo sharing application is nearly as good as Flickr), the smart and elegant design (thanks, Bryan Veloso), or the ultra-cool “Pulse” statistics app that is built in.

    Facebook rules. Switch now, if you can.

  20. Robert Young says:

    Nice post, Mike. But I’m afraid your calculations exclude one major variable.

    Currently, a significant percentage of MySpace’s gross revenues comes from sellings its homepage, on a daily basis (just like the portals, Yahoo! and MSN). I’d estimate that they are getting about $250,000 per day.

  21. Everyone complains about the clutter, disorganization, and confusion on MySpace pages, and it has even been labelled the “Goatse for web developers”. But as it has been pointed out, MySpace has been extremely successful, so why would they change just because the more mature crowd thinks they should? Why should they move to a cleaner layout? As a large group of users on MySpace are of the younger crowd, it stands to reason that MySpace is one of their first web design experiences, no matter how limited the experience is. These are kids who want to impress their friends with what they can do with their page, stand out in a crowd of millions of users, and personalize their page according to their likes.

  22. Facebook husband says:

    My wife is a college professor and loves Facebook. It’s surreal to hear her students say “The photos are on my facebook.” They speak another language when I’m around them. It was even funnier when I learned that her colleagues love it too. Photo sharing seems to be the big draw for them.

    Before long we’ll see a Blackboard + Facebook + RateMyProfessor + CampusFood mashup. So a student can share photos of their all-night cram session, take the online exam, immediately rate their prof, then order Chinese food. All with 3 pageviews!

  23. before we all give facebook too much love lets remember that they are taking a ton in VC and it’s not clear how or even if they are making any money. They have a beautiful interface with almost ZERO ads. I don’t see how they will stay a float after the VC runs out.

  24. Jeff Croft says:

    “So why would they change just because the more mature crowd thinks they should?”

    Who said they “should?”

    “Before we all give facebook too much love lets remember that they are taking a ton in VC and it’s not clear how or even if they are making any money…”

    Why do I care if they’re making money or not? I’m just a user. That having been said, it’s pretty clear Facebook intends to sell (and who can blame them?). That’s how they’re going to make money.

  25. Jeff Croft says:

    “Before long we’ll see a Blackboard + Facebook + RateMyProfessor + CampusFood mashup…”

    Don’t hold your breath! Given that none of these sites/apps offer an open API, making a decent mashup would be damn near impossible, and probably illegal.

  26. “Why do I care if they’re making money or not? I’m just a user.”

    – When they don’t make money and they close we’ll all be kinda sad. If I like a service I want them to make money so they can be around for a long time.

    “Facebook intends to sell (and who can blame them?). That’s how they’re going to make money.”

    – If by “They” you mean the founders I guess your right. I don’t know what company wants to buy a money pit. Even if Facebook gets bought who ever is the new owner is will want to turn it in to a profit.

  27. Geof Harries says:

    Weird, all of that MySpace mockery and not one comment about the shortcomings of CFML. Mike, I’m disappointed :)

  28. William Bay says:

    Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence. -Mahatma Gandhi

    This was the quote the day in my inbox this morning. It could apply to Myspace… or Microsoft, fill in your evil empire here____ Starbucks, Washington Mutual, etc, etc.

    The thing is, those companies have persisted for better or worse.
    I can’t stand Myspace. I get giddy everytime someone asks me if I have a Myspace, to tell them I wouldn’t be caught dead with a Myspace. (I did say the same thing about Washington Mutual. But you know what??? That free checking thing was really too good to resist, call me a sell out). But as those companies have been around, maybe we need to take a cue from them, as they lay across scattered Benji’s on their beds ala Demi Moore.

    2 ways to go about it… Resistance (the Rebellion “may the force be with you Luke”, and Acceptance (see Gandhi’s quote above and never kill another bug in your life)

    1. The Rebellion
    There is talk in this string however about a Myspace Killer and I checked, the domain is available for some gung-ho stalwart to build a new community of Standards loving/Myspace hating internetters.
    I do have this tickle of a thought that it all would end in some Waco-esque compound fire and the death of 40 people all ceremoniously chanting “Give me AJAX or give me death.”

    2. Acceptance
    Friendship, Peace, Love, Acceptance, and all that other New Age, Hippy s**t.
    With all the money that they have couldn’t someone, (e.g. not me), propose a solution such as Mike has talked about??? Migrate them to a Ruby on Rails, AJAX type environment and get rich themselves???

    There’s a lot of talk, but will the real movers and shakers please stand up?

    Yo, Peace Out
    And Kiddies – Don’t Believe the Hype

  29. Mike D. says:

    Robert: Ok, perfect… that might be one of the missing variables then. It’s debatable whether or not selling your homepage should be included in any CPM reports though. After all, it’s just two banner ads (currently purchased by Aquafina, apparently). So at $250,000 a day, that’s about $7.5 million a month (if it’s sold out every day) so that would bring things closer to the alleged $16.6 million a month MySpace is making this year. Still though, if you’re not going to count that in average CPM calculations, you need to subtract the total home page hits from the total overall hits when you calculate the rest.

    prompt: Why should they change? Why should *any* business change? Answer – because change is inevitable in almost every business. Stay a step ahead or die. MySpace is not succeeding because of what they do poorly. They are succeeding because of what they do well, and *despite* what they do poorly. Keep the good, eliminate the bad, and *then* you’re a juggernaut.

  30. You probably know by now, but it appears Techdirt has taken notice of your article.

  31. Britt says:

    And, I do think they are trying to stay ahead . . . user video uploads are one great, new example. I think the video section…is decently clean too from an interface standpoint…

  32. jon says:

    Services like MySpace and Xanga are popular for the same reason piss poor pop albums from groups like NSYNC are popular. Hell for that matter, the same reason the base model V6 Ford Mustang has been one of the highest selling cars in the world. There are an over abundence of pre-teen and teenagers that are told to like it. They like all the glittery flashing pages with elevnty billion animated .gif files. They like their Eminem page backgrounds and all the crap that makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

    MySpace isn’t the unstoppable force. It’s the social engine that makes American Idol more popular than the Presidential election that’s the force behind it all. It’s the reason the evening news tells me about what Tom Cruise did today before they tell that Iran may have a nuclear weapon pointed at us.

    Pop culture is a fickle thing. People are such sheep. BAH! BAH!

    Maybe we should start working on the next MySpace type of thing. We could totally pay off a handful of popular kids across the country to use our new service. From there we can sell it off to a media giant, for millions of course, that thinks they can sustain it as a business model.

    (Editor’s Note: Perfectly said.)

  33. lisa says:

    I have to say, I hated Myspace the first time I saw it. I reconnected with an old highschool friend, and the only way he would communicate was if I sent him messages through Myspace. It’s like he never checked his email.

    I, as a college student, would jump on the “Myspace Killer” website. At the moment, I can’t join Facebook because my School isn’t listed (damn community college), but I know if we could, half the campus would be all over it.

    Myspace has been banned from the school network because of the bandwith it uses (and probably because all you ever saw were people on Myspace), so our community needs a new outlet already.

  34. Tom Madrid says:

    I’ve recently come to understand why MySpace is so popular, especially to the market they cater to. Before I talk about why, I want to point to Professor Clay Christensen of the Harvard Business School for providing this insight. I also suggest reading his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, for further understanding of the concept I’ll talk a bit about. I promise I’m not a schill for this guy, believe me, I don’t think he needs it.

    The basic concept Clay Christensen talks about in The Innovator’s Dilemma is what he calls, disruptive technology. It’s a kind of technology that isn’t necessarily a breakthrough improvement to any existing technology, rather it’s a technology that comes in at lower quality, in this case lesser functionality, but operates differently from current technologies, that allow it to catch on with the lowest spectrum of the marketplace (non-consumption and low expectation consumers), and then eventually grow to meet the demands of a greater market. So not only is this a disruptive technology in the sense that it offers something different to the incumbent technology (in this case, small-fry hosting like angelfire, AND social networking sites like friendster), it’s also a growth technology that improves over time to meet those needs of, in this case, a more sophisticated consumer. While it hasn’t quite begun to progress towards that market, it might eventually, much in the ways you mention in your post.

    To talk a moment on the current customer base of MySpace, the lowest end of the spectrum; these users are coming from a place where their alternatives were limited to DIY webspace such as Angelfire, and low customization options in Friendster, OR they come from a non-consumption marketplace, meaning they never used either of those services prior to MySpace. What MySpace offers is the ability for a user to customize their own webspace to a level that hasn’t been offered before, particularly because they benefit from intrinsic structure, and quick turnaround. Additionally, it comes with a built-in audience, something that could NOT be offered with an Angelfire account. The combination of the two lets people be creative in a structured, safe (meaning they can’t really screw anything up) environment where other people will take notice, almost immediately. In many ways, the built-in audience of MySpace is what many private companies are taking advantage of in order to springboard their audience at an altogether different site.

    (On some of your other comments, I’ve read how some people lament MySpace users as individuals who latch on to what’s popular, and are thus, representative of the low end market for webspace/design, but the reality is that their preference, or rather the market for such preference will never go away. The users might mature over time, and migrate away from MySpace, but as time goes, they will eventually be replaced by a new generation of users. Many a company wishes to capture such a market since it’s quite easily one of the largest on the Internet. )

    To address some of the concerns of inventory and other business issues regarding the operation of MySpace, I’ll again refer to something mentioned by Clay Christensen in another book. News Corp., the new owners of MySpace, have most likely read about, and understood the concept of the disruptive technology, and they have bought MySpace as a result. Typically what a disruptive technology does is come into the marketplace at the low end, and eventually knock out the incumbent technologies by “hollowing out” their customer base. The incumbent technology companies (who are typically driven out of business) rarely survive this kind of thing, and where they have, they do so by adopting the disruptive technology on some level. Where a company has been most successful, is when the parent creates an organization that’s outside of their current organization that is managed, and funded such that it can withstand and tolerate failures and re-organizations, unlike the parent company. In this way, MySpace is still quite an autonomous unit from News Corp, and will probably remain so for quite some time. Based on the kind of work that makes MySpace tick, I’d venture a guess that their management and leadership lacks the kind of analytical business acumen to make the kind of adjustments you suggest.

    Anyways, that’s my two cents worth. I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time dwelling on ideas for the “next big thing” in disruptive technology, and I think I may have an idea that incidentally depends on the business models of MySpace and Facebook, although it’s not anything like them on a large scale, it’s just interdependent.

  35. Steve Bryant says:

    Great post, Mike. It makes me all giddy when people do actual research for blog posts. You rock. Also, I’m going to leave this comment on your myspace page.

    I did a post on MySpace and the death of language over on my blog. Check it out.

    -s. to the izzo

  36. Gary Love says:

    Nice timing with this article Mike. With Del Mar College and Apple stores blocking MySpace because of its bandwidth hogging tendencies, there’s yet another reason for them to cut down on bloat.

  37. Jim Kukral says:

    Good thoughts and well done. I think, however, you can only go so far with poor usability, and frankly, relying on “more page views from a poor user experience equals more ad revenue CPM” as a business model is flawed to say the least. Don’t you think?

    Don’t get me wrong, poor design can function monetarily just as well as good design, as much as it pains me to say that, it’s true.

    The trap for MySpace is that someone comes along and does it better, cleaner. Long term, that competitor is going to win in my opinion.

  38. bloggaru says:

    myspace is the master of forcing page views. i wonder how many of their advertisers realize this? the page views being forced are one of the reasons the user experience sucks….bad

  39. Tigerblade says:

    Chris Griffin said: “Most people hate MySpace as a website, but loves the idea of what MySpace brings.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m actually ashamed of myself for not saying it. It’s a beautiful concept – let people connect with their friends and offer them a way to find other people with similar interests and keep in touch – but it’s horribly done. But damn is it addicting.

  40. Rick says:

    It’s funny that it’s such a pageview factory… when I go through some of these horribly long and wide Myspace I just scroll and scroll and scroll…. I never click.

  41. Jeff Croft says:

    What I don’t get is — if so many people hate MySpace as a website but love the idea of a site like it, why is everyone using it instead of the competitors (which are almost all more well-done)? It’s a shame everyone can’t see the elegance that is Facebook, but there are still plenty of generally-available alternative to MySpace, right?

    I think the answer is community lock-in. Whether it’s e-mail, instant messenging, your Outlook calendar, or Flickr, you’re going to go where your friends are. All of these social apps become orders of magnitude more useful and fun when lots of people you know are also using them. I much prefer Yahoo IM as a client to AIM, but I use AIM because everyone I know is on it. I think a lot of people use MySpace for the same reason.

    I guess this just goes to show that there’s an even biggger advantage to being first-to-market in the social space. Then again, MySpace wasn’t first-to-market, so who knows. :)

  42. Naomi says:

    I am so glad I stumbled across your site and this article! My own diatribes about the wretched user interface at MySpace have been falling on deaf ears. I have a client who uses the site as a tool for her business (local music promotion geared toward teens and young adults). She frequently has me log in to her account and update calendar postings; I cringe every time I have to do it. She recently added a garish background image that makes the main navigation links virtually invisible. *sigh*

  43. Jorel says:

    Rather than speculate on Myspace’s revenue stream, why not look it up (at least for 2005)?–ID__100775–/free-co-factsheet.xhtml

    Company Type Subsidiary of Fox Interactive
    Fiscal Year-End March
    2005 Sales (mil.) $79.0
    1-Year Sales Growth 37.9%
    2005 Net Income (mil.) $4.5
    2005 Employees 318
    1-Year Employee Growth 39.5%

  44. Mike D. says:

    Jorel: I’m not doing the speculating on the $200 million number. That was from the NYT article. The numbers you bring up from 2005 are great, but 2006 is clearly going to be a much bigger year, if for no other reason than the site’s traffic and uniques are way up.

  45. Jorel says:

    Ahh, thanks for clearing that up. I agree with a lot which has been said here about MySpace and I don’t think it gets said nearly enough. I’ve always been a bit skeptical about its $580 million price tag and how they expect a return on investment, especially considering how poor of a service it is and how fickle its users are.

  46. Steve says:

    Thanks for a great article, Mike! There have been many, many great comments, as well; I’ve learned alot.

    I’m not a professional designer or programmer (just a wanna-be); I’m a musician and tech-geek. I totally agree with the comment that I hate MySpace but I love what it brings. I have met many people my age (40+) with like interests and have reconnected with friends with whom I lost touch.

    However, the interface (or “user experience”, whatever you want to call it) just plain sucks. The profile page customization options remind me of the gadgets in the customization aisle at the car parts store: meaningless little decals, ugly-ass seat covers, disgusting-smelling air fresheners, so forth and so on. Sure, you can put these things on your car (or MySpace page), but why would you? I have friends whose pages I hate to visit: they load so slowly, cause my broswer to hang, or start playing multiple video and audio files simultaneously – AARRGGHH!!!

    As an end user, all I can do is try to customize my page so it isn’t butt-ugly, it’s simple and plain and allows easy access to the “content” (I hate that word in this context…).

    Oh, yeah; the other thing I do is use Firefox with Adblock and block each and every iframe and graphic like so:


    If someone were to come out with a “MySpace killer” app with all the good and (a lot) less of the bad, I’d be on it like stink on wet dog! :-D

    Thanks again for a great article!

  47. Rosalyn says:

    I think you secretly like Myspace. I think you hide in your little closet at night, hoping no one will catch you trying to create your own little Myspace website. Just the right little touches here and there. If you build it just right , they will come. Secretly adding flashy items, you think, double think, overthink of the perfect pictures to include of yourself. Late night you have one on one eyecandy duels with others who claim to have the best eye candy on Myspace. But still no one compares to the interesting little icons , so sparkly, your little phrases for each pictures so cleverly thought up, so catchy, so witty, wow, how brilliant he is. Only it’s taken over your life and you don’t know how to stop the charade. Myspace, she’s to powerful!!! You have no control anymore. You’ve gone to far, now there’s no stopping it……Dom, dom, dom! Or I could just be really bored and needed this laugh of thinking of how crazy I must seem to u right now. Yup! that was worth it . Bye!

  48. I think that 2/3 cut is not doing any good to their business, though it’s deffinitely better for users.

  49. Mike B says:

    I agree that MySpace can be very annoying at times, but unlike what other people have said, it’s more than likely not going to slow down because a few kids can’t get online. MySpace is a big thing nowadays, and it’s not going to slow down until something far greater comes along and steals its thunder. I remember a couple of years ago before MySpace when a lot of people were dotted around on other social community sites, all people around my age too (19) using these sites (FaceParty for one example). Now, a site which provides groups, music, the ability to upload photos, mail, IM, etc comes along. Of course people are going to go for that. It’s embedded into peoples lives now, and I doubt it’ll stop for a good while.

  50. Mike A says:

    I’m a little late to the conversation, but would just like to add that when (not if) the next big social networking app comes along, MySpace’s popularity will probably accelerate its downfall as its users post bulletins and blogs announcing their move to the new site.

  51. Nail says:

    Not sure if this is a right place… We have growing electronic newsletter mailing list, and I’m desperate to find decent, reasonably priced software or shareware for list management and distribution. We’ve been using Outlook and ACT and they’re not working well. I was found bulk email software for sending newsletter. Are there other good options to help save my sanity? Does anyone know of any good hosting company that can handle bulk email? We need to send newsletters to about 900 customers without the hassle of restrictions. Thanks!

  52. Danielle says:

    – These thoughts combined with reader comments express what has been driving me nuts about myspace.

    I only want to add, that I disagree that “kids” could care less about an efficient interface. The truth is, with how quick and streamlined things have gotten, the kids will be the first to abandon for something with better functionality and speed.

  53. Martin Koch says:

    One thing that needs to be remembered is that Myspace’s inefficiency is part of its appeal- Users are attracted to its upstart qualities despite the fact it is owned by an 18 billion dollar company- Many users are simply attracted to either its social aspects or its emense marketing ability- Where else could a band expose their Music to potentially 1 million people plus at a time within the space of a few weeks-

  54. Mike D. says:

    Martin: I don’t think the inefficiency has anything to do with it. “Social aspects” and “marketing ability” are not related to inefficiency. They are orthogonal.

  55. Chris says:

    One thing that really kills me about MySpace is that it seems people are just on there to show off how awesome they are, there is less networking because there is so much hostility about who is better than who and who did what.

    It just seems like a very badly designed, very agressive site.

  56. Carol says:

    I, for one, simply cannot believe Friendster was only mentioned twice in this discussion. MySpace is, as mentioned right above, “very badly designed and aggressive,” in comparison to Friendster’s earnest, earthy and homey feel. I get a sick feeling having a profile on MySpace. I wish my Friendster profile had as much meaning as it used to. MySpace just sucks.

  57. Tom says:

    Definitely interesting.

    I saw this kind of info compaaring myspace to blogger. From a marketing standpoint, one also needs to consider the demographics of the audience. With myspace, the web-stat numbers may be high, but the audience is mainly high school kids (I teach in a HS). High school kids work part time, if that, so they don’t have a lot of money to spend (yes, I know, some get stuff bought for them by their parents, but they don’t have full spending power and authority themselves). Whereas bloggers I think are the next segment up, the young adults, and adults – who have jobs and careers, more affluent hobbies and more individual purchasing power. So, from this angle, it is not just about numbers either.

  58. Kevin says:

    So bascially, it’s easy to manufacture hits…haha i like that!

  59. I lost the flow of the conversation about 15 comments in, so I’ll go off on my own tangent about MySpace.

    I contacted the folks over at MySpace with some ideas on how they could clean up the site and generate more revenue and eventually drop the ads, or at least a big part of them. Since they didn’t listen, or at least didn’t get back to me for my input, I’ve decided to launch my own version aimed at an entirely different demographic; parents.

    I’m posting this here in the hopes that the people that are discussing the issue of MySpace may be interested in getting involved with a “Smart” startup.

    BlueWEB Media, Inc is in the process of launching the SuperMomNetwork and then branding from that user base, SuperMomSpace and SuperDadSpace.

    Anyone interested in getting involved with this startup can contact me at

  60. Tom Nowell says:

    Hang on…$0.10 per view would be $5000 for 5 million page views :)

  61. tom nowell says:

    or even $50,000 sorry big numbers scare me!

  62. Mike D. says:

    Tom: It’s not $.10 per view. It’s $.10 per thousand.

  63. Graham says:

    The draw of Myspace is how easy it is for a non-technical person to customize the hell out of their personal page. This is why the kids love it; because they know how to add relevent videos which appeal to them and their peers. I could pop over to my myspace profile and add a clip from the ‘Dave Chappelle Show’ in 5 minutes. Or a new song from my favorite band. Or I could get a layout with a gigantic animated faerie dancing in the background. Yeah, this stuff all sucks from a professional’s perspective, but the users love it.

    And I’ll agree with early comments that I have found many old friends on Myspace that apparently communicate solely thru that site for messaging, so I’m not sure how they’ll be able to break off and go to a competator.

  64. Tom says:

    i created myspace for the simple fact that people would make friends and have something to express themselves with. its not all my fault that people got mudered or raped ites not like i knew that was going to happin. its just a site to find friends even friends that you havent seen in years or maby you wanted to find family members

  65. Jon says:

    I enjoyed the article, some intresting thoughts and facts. Did the real Tom just leave a comment…… Wow !

  66. ziggy says:

    Can anyone explain how search works on myspace? When I search for my myspace domain name on there, a term also used in the title, it doesn’t come up. Searching for other terms on my page, it doesn’t come up either.

    Does it only search blogs on there?

    And have you noticed there’s no obvious way to make a blog post from your profile page? You have to view all blog entries then post a “new blog” not a make a new post.

    (As an aside, I don’t know anyone on myspace, just put up a page to try it, think it is the crappiest website I’ve ever seen, and can’t even figure out how to “interact” on there, though I have no real desire to find out. What are you supposed to do, hunt around and get yourself added to other people’s friend lists? Cheesy.)

  67. Nicki says:

    Yahoo!’s Chief of Insights Peter Daboll posted on our company’s blog (Yodel Anecdotal, about the need for new measurement tools, given that new technologies like Ajax and Flash can’t be accurately counted in terms of page views. A whole lot of user engagement (and a better user experience) translates into essentially one page view. Not too many Yahoo! apples to MySpace’s oranges.

  68. KS says:

    I guess this is a patently n00b question…how do social networking sites like myspace et al host so many pages and that too with content that is so ‘heavy’? Isn’t it very expensive? What about sites that are just coming up and who don’t have a good enough revenue stream…how would they go about doing this in the most cost efficient way?

  69. JENNY says:


  70. jill says:

    Well I now no how harmful my space is not only to children but to lonely 22 year old girls who think that they need compaionship. my granddaughter had a baby 4 months ago and the father is not in its life. She met this guy on my space saw him 4 times and decided to leave home with her child for him. They talked on the space for 2 weeks. This guy is an abuser and is on hard drugs he is a 9 grade drop out. If anything should happen to my grandchild My Space will have another law suite on their hands. Is there anyway this site can be closed down. To many children are being hurt and taken advantage of from this site.
    As for sexual preditors my granddaughter ought to know about that her father is a my space subscriber and he was just convicted of being a sexual preditor and he is still walking. He is still on my space and he is still talking to you children. He molested his own now he wants someone elses child

  71. PRINCESS JANAI says:

    i think this my space stuff should leave bacause it is making little kids want to go on it and it not for them and its giving to much info about people i want it SHUT DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  72. reality says:

    princess, get a life, you imbecile – people give the info, not the site, and if little kids are on the internet unsupervised, that is the fault of the parents, not myspace, which should be the least of your worries.

  73. jonathan says:

    Haha, looking at things now, the Myspace Killer everyone mentioned a year ago looks like Facebook.

  74. mazzy (f) says:

    First, I’m relatively new to cyberspace, however I’m a pretty quick study &, whilst I’ll admit a lot of what you had to say went over my head, I get the point & totally agree.

    Having said though, I’m enjoying myspace, probably because I dont have too many friends (by choice)…

    The constant signing in is a bit annoying, (I just minimised this page to check my URL & lost myspace, hence, had to sign in yet again)…I too, have friends whos’ sites I dont even go near because they take forever to load. ..

    I also have a profile on Netlog (formerly known as Facebox) & I hate it with a vengence. It will not even allow me to reply to a message. Every time I get part way through, Microsoft pops up with a warning saying “sorry blah blah, we have to close blah blah blah..” then the whole thing shuts down.

    The Netlog team always reply to my “help” questions but their answer to this particular problem was to ask me “what browser am I using?”…like an idiot, I wrote back…their answer…”install Firefox”
    including a link to do same..thanks for nothing Netlog. Then again, TOM has not replied to me once concerning anything.

    So as far as Facebox taking over popularity I dont think so…it sux
    I also find myspace more private….Being new to all this I just followed the promts when installing Netlog & then, to my horror, discovered my email addies were public…Netlog would not allow me to remove them when I tried to take them out, so I had to put in FAKE ones just to shut the thing up.

    I’m sure by now ur thinking “what is this woman on about?”..never mind..hope u get a laugh at least. That’s assuming u actual got to the end.

  75. More on MySpace

    This is a great article posted by Mike Davidson:
    MySpace: Unstoppable Force or Unnecessary Click Factory?
    Need not say any more.

  76. MySpace not so good enough for ad space?

    The New York times has a story being bandied about this morning over the challenges MySpace is allegedly having sell advertising on their sites. Has anybody that’s wondering actually been to MySpace lately? That space is littered with ads. Someth…

  77. MySpace Expands To Fill The Hype Alloted

  78. Alex is web 2.0 enemy #1

    Over the past month, I’ve begun to spend more of my time on raising capital for Pluggd, and have learned how important Alexa is in the fund raising process. Here is a dirty little secret, on Sand Hill road, they

  79. myspace, revenue and experience design

    Mike Davidson, lead designer and CEO of Newsvine, writes a really smart post about the gratuitous clicks within the design of the MySpace interface. He argues that properly applied user experience design would increase the stickiness of the domain, but…

  80. How Does AJAX Web Design Effect Ad Revenue

    Mike Davidson of and

  81. […] text above is mine – and I think this is an important point. Page views can mean many things. As Mike Davidson’s excellent MySpace analysis has pointed out previously, MySpace is an extraordinarily inefficient (perhaps intentionally), […]

  82. […] has a great post taking this idea further and Mike Davidson wrote months ago about the case of Myspace and its page views statistics being […]

  83. […] Inflated MySpace Page Views Explain 10-Cent CPMs MySpace: Design Anarchy that Works MySpace: Unstoppable Force or Unnecessary Click Factory? […]

  84. Deanna says:

    This is insane.

  85. […] been a great metric (better than hits though). It is easy to architect a site to generate more PVs. Mike Davidson explains how MySpace is abusing this. And it’s also easy to game the system for example with a hidden […]

  86. […] known as Ajax. And this technique effectively makes the pageview obsolete. How? Mike Davidson explains it […]

  87. […] What’s missing? The birthday itself. Instead of building trust with its members by providing them useful information, Friendster, too is nothing but a click whore. […]

  88. […] as hit counts to site design decisions that have nothing to do with actual usage. As Mike Davidson brilliantly analyzed in April, part of the reason MySpace drives such an amazing number of pageviews is because their site design […]

  89. […] Inefficiently designed navigation that causes pageviews (See the MySpace analysis, called “The Click Factory”) […]

  90. F*&% Myspace says:

    […] “Click Factory” […]

  91. […] as MySpace pushed past Yahoo in page views. But many contend that MySpace’s poor interface artificially inflates their page views. With good design, it’s suggested that MySpace’s traffic would drop to a third to an […]

  92. […] are security/privacy issues to be aware of. And the huge advertising dollars at stake. I could go on, but I’ll leave it at that for now. I need to get over to my page and change […]

  93. […] maybe the Simple Horizontal Navigation is really, really brilliant. Brilliant like MySpace’s page inflating site design, which makes people have to click multiple tim…. Bean counters love it. […]

  94. Jeff Wolff says:

    Very interesting article to read after Facebook has taken over.

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