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23 May 2006

Comments

Jay Fienberg

MySpace does have a search interface already--it's obviously used for finding people / bands on MySpace. And, it also can search the whole web. Like everything on MySpace, it almost is useful in a slightly annoying / mildly amusing way.

But, if you think about the search-portal connection, e.g., Yahoo is a big search engine because a lot of people use Yahoo as their home page / portal, you can imagine MySpace seeing an opportunity to be a big portal in that same way.

And, the big web biz these days is all about locking users in to your services, collecting data on them and selling ads to partners.

Jim Benson

Yeah, I know they've got it. I just think that the focus on the browser page misses the point of the brand.

I use Wikipedia a lot now because it is both integrated into Trillian and into my search bar in Firefox. Having to go to the site initially, then search for something, then get there involves extra and unnecessary steps.

Wikipedia already gets its branding needs met by having its logo permanently in my search bar drop down.

Their insistence that users need a portal and no other tools is likely the real reason why their users leave after they leave high school. They simply outgrow the limiting and controlling interface.

Jay Fienberg

It's an interesting division: what aspects of the web are places that people go, and what are services that people use (across places, or even in some "place-less" fashion).

Although it's not an accurate characterization, we could imagine web 1 was about building places, and web 2 was about building services.

I don't think either approach is universally superior, in terms of building a brand, e.g., getting new customers and hanging on to existing ones.

In general though, it seems to me that the successful services on the web have tended to be extensions of successful places on the web. And, as with your Wikipedia example, I think MySpace could take search from the portal /place context and expand it into a service-brand, e.g., a MySpace search extension in Firefox, or a MySpace search toolbar, or a MySpace desktop search. . .

I imagine, with MySpace, that if they have a user going away to college who keeps using MySpace (e.g., as a service) for one more year beyond high school, that will be profitable.

It's a lot like Yahoo! or Google--they keep adding new "properties" that their users will try out for a while (at least long enough to be willing to try the next new thing)--keeps users around, clicking on advertising.

Jim Benson

Absolutely, I think the distinction here is that people see things like MySpace as a place - but in our heads we don't think that way.

For example, this blog is ver central to how I communicate with people. But you likely didn't read this initially by looking at my blog directly, you saw the post in your aggregator and then came here to comment.

You came to this blog as a site because context deemed it necessary. But you wouldn't come here every day otherwise.

This is like real places. There are a lot of restaurants I like in Seattle, yet I might go to each of them once every two or three months. This isn't because I don't want to patronize them, it's because life requires you to do other things.

In terms of blogs, the icite blog (Jay's blog) is important to me. But I couldn't to there and to the other blogs on my blogroll (see right column) every day and have any type of a life.

So places like MySpace, who expect their users to go to a certain _place_ EVERY DAY are setting themselves up for failure.

They should understand that every on-line community has a churn rate, has a daily viewership rate, and has some measurement of relevance. Relevance requires that people be thinking about their community, and thinking about it in a good way.

Making people physically go to MySpace every day turns people into Dunkin Donuts guys. Every day at 4 am they "gotta make the donuts". And you start to resent things you "gotta" do.

This means that MySpace needs to inject themselves into the daily lives of their users through useful and relevant things. This includes things like search bars, notifications that their friends have posted something, etc.

In other words, in order to ensure that people keep going to MySpace, MySpace needs to make the _need_ to go to MySpace less of a requirement and more of a natural act.

If they retain a few million users every year, but overall users go to the site 10% less - their brand gets stronger and their ad clicks get more relevant.

If MySpace makes themselves more a state of mind than a state of being, they will find themselves synonymous with on-line community. Like "Give me a Coke" means any type of soft drink in the Southern US.

So I fully agree that laying the infrastucture of a distributed network is much more important than building a web site.

Do I think that NewsCorp, even when they read this, will understand this? No. They are far to bought-in on the broadcast model of revenue generation and user retention. In their eyes, you need to "watch" Fox, you need to "visit" MySpace. I can't see them ever getting past that.

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Jim Benson is a collaborative management consultant. He is CEO of Modus Cooperandi, a consultancy which combines Lean, Agile Management and Social Media principles to develop sustainable teams.

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