Myspace: Do not resuscitate?

June 22, 2009

Myspace has some issues. It’s no secret. One of social media’s pioneers has unraveled in the past year while its rivals have flourished. Facebook has grown 253 percent in the last year and recently overtook Myspace as the most-visited social network. Twitter has grown an amazing 1,043 percent.

Myspace? Uh, take a look at this graph. The troubled social network’s traffic has decreased 6 percent in the last year, a year in which social media have become a fixture in mainstream culture. Seeing a decrease in traffic as a social network in the past year is like a baseball player taking steroids only to hit fewer home runs. Myspace needs help. A lot of it. So whom does it turn to as a marketing ally when it needs a pick-me-up more than ever and just laid off 30% of its work force? Bruno. Oh dear.

Bruno” is an upcoming movie about a satirical fashion journalist from Austria, played by Sacha Baron Cohen of “Borat” fame. As “Borat” dealt with racism, “Bruno” will deal with homophobia. “Bruno” comes to theaters July 10 and is likely going to be a monster hit. “Borat” was made for $18 million and grossed $261 million worldwide, and Myspace apparently believes that “Bruno” will have similar success because the site has decided that attaching itself to the summer movie is a great marketing idea. I just happen to disagree.

First, let’s look at what they have done. The film’s home page is MeinSpace.com, or how Cohen’s character pronounces Myspace. The page is hosted by Myspace. An AdAge article tells that those close to the deal say that the page is a part of a “wide-ranging integration” between Myspace, the News Corp.’s social network, and the film. The deal includes integration in the film and a media buy on Myspace, including a home-page takeover featured around Bruno. Myspace was allowed to debut the film’s restricted trailer, which contained some racy footage, and as part of the deal the social network will also get exclusive content related to the film.

In addition to his Myspace page, Bruno has 31,500 friends on Facebook, more than 14,000 followers on “Tvitter,” (@brunovassup), has done interviews on Digg and recently was at the MTV awards in a staged stunt featuring Eminem. So the film has done a lot of marketing and has gotten very involved in social media, but the point here isn’t about if it was a good move for Bruno to partner with Myspace, but more about if it was a good move for Myspace and its culture.

I personally just don’t see how the social network that mainstream America considers to be lowbrow thinks it can right the ship by partnering with a film whose whole premise is taking jabs at lowbrow culture. It only makes things worse. The AdAge article points out that “the idea that Bruno would be totally into Myspace — or ‘mine-sposh,’ as he pronounces it — is organic to the character.” I don’t necessarily think that Myspace should be flattered by that. I can just see Cohen laughing behind Myspace’s back after he shakes their hands, thinking, “Don’t these fools know the joke is on them?”

Myspace has universally become known less as a social utility and more as a music promotion site with some sketchy characters and young teens that still have a lot to learn about the digital space. When I think of Myspace I think of musicians blatantly promoting their music in a not very approachable way, too many chaotic background pages with flashing lights that feel like a creepy nightclub, strange messages from your “friends” in your inbox that lead you to suspicious links and Quagmire from the “Family Guy.”

If I was a Myspace employee who is lucky enough to still have a job, I would do my best to convince the site’s decision-makers that they need to first clean up the site’s interface, adopt better technology, do something about the privacy settings and decide how they want to position the site before they hop on a film’s bandwagon to generate some buzz. The move reeks of desperation. As Myspace contemplates whether or not it was actually such a good idea after all, Cohen will be laughing at their naiveté all the way to the societal highbrow bank.