News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS ) MySpace is trying to do what Friendster, Tribe.net, Bebo, and any social network that squandered its 15 minutes has failed to do.
In trying to regain relevance, MySpace is hoping that last month's website makeover will bear fruit in the coming weeks.
I guess MySpace missed the memo. You only get one shot to matter in Web 2.0, and its time came and went. News Corp. should have either cashed out of MySpace when it was hot -- or at the very least, peaking. We're living in Facebook's world now, until that site somehow stumbles.
According to Bloomberg, MySpace chief Mike Jones told those in attendance at the LeWeb conference in Paris this week that the company isn't in discussions with potential buyers or merger partners.
Really? Who would buy MySpace? Everyone saw what happened when AOL (NYSE: AOL ) shelled out $850 million for Bebo. It dumped it this summer for less than $10 million.
Web 2.0 sites are great when they're hot, but it's catching a falling steak knife after that.
The one thing working in MySpace's favor is that the major portals are trying to get some form of social networking mojo going. They have largely stumbled in the past, so even a meandering MySpace -- which can be exploited by a larger company with mega traffic -- is better than an organic flop.
Let's go over some of the potential buyers for MySpace, if it should ever put itself up for sale and be willing to cash out at a fire sale price.
- Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) : CEO Carol Bartz is under pressure to make something happen, and its market-leading email platform has been called a "dormant social network" in the past. MySpace and rumored acquisition target AOL are destinations that are way past their prime and as sexy as Abe Vigoda in fishnets. However, they're magnetic properties that will come cheap, an unfortunate necessity given Yahoo!'s cash-poor balance sheet relative to its larger rival.
- Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) : The world's leading search engine has the money and the momentum to overcome any negative implications of buying an over-the-hill website. However, one of MySpace's rare strengths over Facebook is its more established promotional platform for musical artists. Big G is eyeing a bigger play in digital music, and this would help in terms for street cred. MySpace is also on firmer footing than Google's own Orkut.
- Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) : MySpace's grip on youth, as Facebook embraces the generational gaps, makes it a compelling acquisition target for the Xbox 360 company. Social gaming is just a matter of connecting the dots.
You don't have to be a portal to pine for MySpace at the right price. Viacom (NYSE: VIA ) was the company that came up short in the original bidding war for MySpace five years ago. The MTV parent can have the last laugh. Given the sorry state of the prerecorded music industry these days, Warner Music Group (NYSE: WMG ) can use the injection of a dot-com hotbed, even if its balance sheet is unlikely to give it the wiggle room to buy MySpace and see it through to a profitable monetization.
I can see why News Corp. wants to give MySpace a few weeks to see if the recent redesign will deliver either the traffic rebirth or the profitability that has proven elusive. However, if that fails, MySpace may be on the road to becoming the next Bebo if News Corp. can't unload it quickly.