Thinking Social / Value

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Why I Love the New MySpace

Originally posted on The Digital Influence Mapping Project with John Bell

Yup, they’re back (The Constellations, above, are a great band in the service). Many in the trades will get snarky about the rising from the ashes of the flameout social network that lost its way. In the apparent triumph of Facebook as the primary social plumbing of our lives, they might be right. Many more will criticize the celebrity backing of Justin Timberlake as a hail-mary pass of brand beyond hope.

I don’t think MySpace should be mistaken for Twinkies. That product brand is part of our history but hopelessly out of step with our healthful present. The New MySpace (I shall call it the “New MySpace” for about a year and then we can go back to just saying “MySpace”) is trying to be something new while at the same time getting back to its knitting – music.

Beta Beta

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot that’s messed up here. While wonderfully visual (I love the big type in the search function), the interface is a messy work-in-progress. Still, I give them credit for trying to mesh the big picture-swipes of the tablet world with an almost simple dashboard design.

Building a playlist that is a mix of songs, videos and full albums is do-able. The significance of what are “Connections” is not clear. That is the primary activity like Facebook’s “Like” or Twitter’s “Follow.” I can Connect with another user by also with any type of media. I got tired connecting to all the Nick Cave songs displayed. Unfortunately, no matter what or who I connected to, nothing ever appeared in my stream. Then I realized the interesting user experience twist – it’s all based upon a horizontal scroll. Clearly a way to distinguish from Facebook but also connect to the horizontal scroll/swipe of iTunes and many tablet functions including our own Web site at Social@Ogilvy.

Music Fans First

Upon registering, you will be asked to self-identify to a stack of creative titles (or the ubiquitous “fan” category). Even though they hint at serving visual artists, too, the actual content and experience appears to be all music focus now. Again, that’s the territory that “old” MySpace staked out at one time.

As a music fan, I hate being force fed a ‘top-of-the-charts’ experience. That’s what we have today in the service. I respect Beyonce, Adele, and even Justin Timberlake. That’s just not my turf. I suspect this is simply how the service launches. It took me only a few minutes to find J Roddy Walston tracks and a simply awesome Social Distortion video.

Pandora and YouTube and, someday, Tumblr?

Forget Facebook. That’s not the territory for the New MySpace. They seem to have staked out some interesting white space wedged between Pandora and YouTube. I love being able to build a playlist that is a mix of songs, albums and videos. It plays in the background. Once in a while, I will watch the video. Of course, Pandora’s magic sauce is the recommendations from their wonderful human-powered DNA analysis. Hard to beat that for music discovery. Currently, there is no real way to discover new music short of browsing endless pages of album art and photo thumbnails or selecting a handful of “related” links. I like recommendations pushed to me.

I have a confession. I love music videos. As corny as they can be, I grew up when MTV was born (“old” MTV) and worked on some of the first music videos seen on the channel. There just isn’t a great experience to find and watch music videos. I know YouTube has everything, but I like a bit of quality curation. I imagine that is what I get in the New MySpace.

Clearly, New MySpace starts with music and music fans. The ambition seems to be a space for all types of creators/creatives. In that regard they may be aiming for some of the territory currently blowing up in Tumblr where we are all asked to “Follow the World’s Creators.” Interestingly, it may just be the user experience that keeps those services apart. Tumblr is the epitome of simple (I love my Tumblr – Smoldering Embers). My Space requires more investment.  Tumblr is also great as it holds wonderful content – often visual – that the world can access and link to. I tried for 10 minutes to send a link to my wife to the Social Distortion video and gave up.

We’ll See

I don’t know if the New MySpace will flourish and survive. I don’t think anyone knows. It feels fresh to me. I hope that it evolves to allow more connections outside the service (e.g. Facebook Connect, Tweets).

I suppose part of their success depends on their ability to lure artists back into MySpace to interact (The Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds page is empty). I don’t think Top40 or even Top500 radio artists can carry the service. Lastly, many services have tried to navigate the licensing and legal quagmire of music rights and ownership and died trying. I hope they know what they are doing.

If you are a music fan, you have to try it.