TECH TALK: The MySpace Story: Founder Talk

In an interview with Forbes in January 2006, the MySpace founders talked about their marketing strategy:

How do you get 46 million people to find out about your product without buying advertising?

DeWolfe: It was really key to create a set of functions that were compelling to our users and an efficient way to use them. Users socialize to figure out what theyre going to do on the weekend. They use MySpace to discover new music and post events. Musicians upload their music. People use it for entertainment purposes or to sell goods in the classified area. MySpace makes what they do in the offline world a) more efficient or b) more interesting.

Anderson: We didnt do traditional marketing, but we did try to find photographers and creative people because we thought that would make the site more interesting. In the beginning, it was all Los Angeles–actors, photographers and musicians. That made for an interesting community, and brought in a lot of people. A lot of the early growth, however, had to do with the features and what our competitors were not allowing people to do.

Music has become particularly important to MySpace. How did you attract over 660,000 artists and bands to the site?

DeWolfe: Tom has a deep passion and understanding for what emerging musicians go through. He understands the frustration. I understood the macro trends of the music business. Labels were signing fewer acts, giving them less time to prove themselves and spending less money on marketing. We saw a need to develop a community for artists to get their music out to the masses. With MySpace, when they went out on tour, they could actually tour nationally. The band might have 20,000 friends on their list and send out a bulletin saying, Im going to be in Austin on Tuesday night. Come see our show. It has allowed bands to make money on music without having a deal.

Here are excerpts from a Buzztone interview Tom Anderson:

MZ: Social networking sites have become a phenomenon, what do you think is the fascination behind these sites? Why are they so popular?

Tom: Well there’s something old here and something new. The old is that it’s simply socializing. Most everyone loves to socialize, and that’s what MySpace and other sites let you do. What’s new, of course, is the way you socialize, via the computer. I’m well-suited for MySpace, because I’m the sort of person who grew up socializing online – from the time I was 12 I was using a modem to talk to people via message boards and various forms of chat. For me, it’s perfectly naturally, and actually preferable in many ways to make friends online. Even today some of my best friends are people I met as a teenager in my room with my 300 bps modem. It’s preferable for a few reasons – I can meet different people then I’d meet in real life, and I can meet people while I’m doing something else. I’m not the sort of person to go a party or a club and mill about looking for new people. But I could be doing my homework, working, or anything on the computer and come across people that I can message and IM when I have a spare moment, and real friendships are formed that way. So these sites are becoming popular, I think, because the mainstream is realizing that socializing online is not just for “computer nerds.” Its mainstream enough that we’ve got a development deal to do a reality TV show based on MySpace. That’s about as mainstream as it gets I suppose.

MZ: One of the fascinating things about social networking sites is that theyve been able to attract and keep the fickle young (18-35 yr. old) users. Why do you think these people are especially attracted to social networking sites?

Tom: One thing I’ve noticed is how rapidly attitudes are changing about meeting people online. Before MySpace began, I thought most people under 25 were really not interested in meeting people from the Internet. I think it was going on, but I didn’t necessarily see it. Under 25 meetings was going on with computer geeks, smaller subcultures, or ethnic sites. I think that was true to a large degree, because most of the mainstream sites that provide a forum for people to meet were dating sites. That was the only option for a mainstream audience. Why would a 22 year old pay for or even use a dating site? Most won’t. But a 22 year old, who grew up with ICQ, AIM & the Internet is also much less concerned about privacy. The Internet is not scary to a younger person. Putting their picture up is not a “dangerous” proposition like it is for a 35 year old. And its not scary to me because I was ‘online’ when I was 12 years old. So my perspective is a lot closer to people who are 21 and younger–people who’ve grown up “online.” Most of our users are 30 and under. I think 24 is the average age. For these people who grew up online, its not “geeky” to use the Internet to meet other people. There just wasnt a lot of it going on because there was no place for it in the mainstream.

Tomorrow: The Popularity

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.