Can MySpace make a comeback?

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Justin Timberlake brought sexy back. But can he bring MySpace back?

The pop icon bought an ownership stake in the former social media giant last year with a vision to restore its relevance. Last Monday, Timberlake debuted his vision in a new promotional video that describes the site as “built totally from scratch,” with slick features and a new direction.

Instead of catering to the general public as a host for personal profiles, the new MySpace.com will reposition itself as a platform for the creative community – specifically, musicians – to showcase their music, photography, film, designs and more.

“There’s a need for a place where fans can go to interact with their favorite entertainers, listen to music, watch videos, share and discover cool stuff and just connect. MySpace has the potential to be that place,” Timberlake said in a statement.

After being dethroned by Facebook four years ago, MySpace descended into obsolescence as millions of users abandoned their profiles and forced the website’s former owner, News Corp., to sell the website for $65 million less than it purchased it for, according to an article from The Guardian. In June 2012, MySpace had 25 million unique visitors.

Some former users like Allison Gronland, a senior in the College of Business Administration, ditched MySpace in favor of Facebook for usability reasons.

“Everyone else had it when we were younger, but I don’t use it anymore because Facebook came along,” Gronland said. “[MySpace] didn’t seem as simple to use as Facebook was at the time, but now Facebook has gotten complicated. When I started using it about six years ago, it was very basic and easy to use.”

Tim Cigelske, senior communication specialist at Marquette, said that while MySpace’s cluttered design was a major factor among many others in the site’s collapse, management also contributed.

“Facebook was cleaner, less distracting and easier to use,” Cigelske said. “But Mark Zuckerberg didn’t try to cash out as quickly. MySpace sold out and cashed in with News Corp., so it looks like MySpace was in it more for short-term gain from the get-go instead of making it the best experience they could, then making money later.”

By directing its attention to primarily the creative community, MySpace will not compete with social media giants Twitter and Facebook – in fact, it will harmonize with the two by allowing cross-platform integration and mutual log-in functions, such as the importation of contacts.

“They’re not trying to be a social network like they used to be – they’re an entertainment hub,” Cigelske said. “One thing they have an advantage with is they have so many artists there already. Now, they just have to compete with Spotify, Pandora, sites like YouTube, where people go to find those things already, so they have to convince those people that this is the place to go for it.”

MySpace’s interface is also undergoing an extensive restoration, borrowing concepts reminiscent of other social media sites like Pinterest’s boards, Instagram’s filtered designs, Grooveshark’s playlist queues and Spotify’s live song sharing.

“I think it holds a lot of potential because it has been shown that people will pay for entertainment on the Internet,” Cigelske said. “They’ll pay for Netflix, Apps and Hulu, so if MySpace provides a good enough service, people will pay.”

Artists may particularly enjoy the new Top Fans and Insights options, which analyze data on Fans with an interactive map and other demographical statistics. Minimalistic profile layouts will replace the old ones, but the website will keep its name.

“They think of MySpace, they think of Tom (the default friend for every new MySpace user), and it’s an uphill battle,” Cigelske said. “They should change their name entirely if they are a brand new service and they are doing different things – not just the image, but the name as well.”

The new MySpace is currently still in beta testing with select users, but you may request an invite and preview its features and design in a promotional video at https://new.myspace.com/.

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