Whatever is left of MySpace — the proto–social network once famous as a way for emo teens to express themselves and for local bands to remain unknown — was just purchased by Time Inc., principally for all of its data. Joe Ripp, chairman and CEO of Time Inc., described the acquisition (for an undisclosed amount) of Viant, MySpace’s parent company, as “game changing.” “Marketers are selecting media partners that have either data-driven capabilities or premium content,” Ripp said. “We will be able to deliver both in a single platform, and will stand apart from those that offer just one or the other.” Viant says it has data on 1 billion users, a marketing trove that, when combined with Time Inc.’s subscription data, “rivals industry leaders Facebook and Google.”
MySpace was one of the first social-media sites when it was founded in 2003 by Chris DeWolfe and Tom (MySpace Tom!) Anderson. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation bought it in 2005 for $580 million; in 2011, after Facebook stomped it to the edge of oblivion, Viant purchased it from Murdoch for $35 million.
In fact, MySpace was always a marketing machine. Sean Percival, former vice-president of online marketing at the site, told The Guardian last year that the company had seen how much time users were spending on Friendster (the other early social network) and recognized an opportunity to sell tchotchkes. “MySpace actually didn’t really exist as a company. They were part of a marketing company, and this company was doing very early e-commerce: they were selling junk, basically,” he said. “They were selling diet pills. They were selling little remote-controlled helicopters. All they wanted … [was] distribution for their ads, selling these horrible products to people. And that’s where it began.” Can the method that briefly worked for diet pills now sell the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition?