Oct 27, 2006

The impending death of MySpace

Last night's entertaining baseball game between the Gateway Redbirds and the Motown Bengals was taken by the former, giving skipper LaRussa and his lads a formidable 3-1 edge in this year's renewal of the Fall Classic. Sure, we don't have the Bombers / BoSox / Amazin's involved, but the Series is always worth at least a peek by fans of this glorious sport.

What has me writing today is not the contest itself, however. Instead, it was a signoff promo that concluded the Fox Network’s post game recap that drew my attention. Yes, I was still awake; were you?

Announcer Joe Buck gave notice that viewers could now turn their attention to the internet, proceed to the Fox MySpace page and catch the latest episodes of various shows that they might have missed or were so entranced with that they just HAVE to watch it all over again. One could even catch the season premier of The OC on the portal before it is shown on the traditional media network. He even gave the backslash-Fox command to ease the navigation challenge.

Fox is a part of the giant News Corp. News Corp, as you may or may not know, is the new owner of…MySpace. A gazillion dollars is all it took for that to happen, but they’ve got it. So what we witnessed last night is simply an execution of what we in the media world refer to as a feedback loop: pushing people back and forth between your various brands and properties.

But what this highlights is the old media / new media disconnect. In this case, News Corp hears all the buzz about MySpace, assumes that there must be “something to this thing they call social networking” and writes the big fact check to get into the party. News Corp -- and Fox-- are now part of the in crowd!

So what do these nouveau hipsters do with their newfound glory? They play the part of Oklahoma grain salesmen at a supermodel party in SoHo, that’s what they do. In other words, they don’t quite fit into the scene.

MySpace, for the twelve of you out there that don’t yet know, is a spot on the net where one tosses out some basic biographical hooks about his or her self (likes / dislikes) into the waters and see who it reels in. The goal, of course, is to make one-on-one connections, hence the term social networking.

It caught on with Generation Z or ZZ or whatever demographic designation we’re up to now, for logical reasons. In this era of kids being forced to travel in packs and engage in group activities --- whether it be Girl Scouts or soccer teams or band practice or summer camp--- MySpace provided an outlet for the expression of individuality. Yes, it’s a sad commentary on the current state of the American experience, but what other avenues do they have?

Big Media, as shown by Fox last night, doesn’t get it. After paying the bucks for MySpace, the archetype of social, one-on-one networking, what does it do? It employs its old school broadcast model within it. Shove those slick, big budget, wide – audience television shows onto the servers, create a page, and let it rip to as many eyeballs as possible. Pushed, of course, by means of massive old school marketing campaigns that they don’t need to pay for because they own the channels and newspapers they’ll run on!

Why do these people think the kids ran away from that great big screen down in the living room and into their bedroom’s net-connected PC in the first place? It was to reel in that new mate, pen pal, concert buddy or hookup partner, that’s why – not to watch OC's episodes.

News Corp/Fox, as well as the rest of the Old Media dinosaurs, continue to struggle with getting a real handle on what the net is all about. They just don’t get it and are in for some pain and suffering in the years ahead as they fail to adapt to this new dawn.

I can already see the headlines playing out in the years ahead, as each one throws its hands into the air as their financial losses amount from this getting hip experiment. Of course, they'll blame everyone else for their failings.

Meanwhile, theyll ruin MySpace as it becomes totally irrelevent to its original wave of supporters. I'd start betting on some of the next round of social networking sites, the ones that haven't yet positioned themselves to be bought out -- and then sunk into nothingness -- by Old Media money and visons.

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