News Corp. (NYSE: NWS ) is the king of social networking. Its MySpace asset has become a cultural touchstone -- how many people do you know who don't have a page on the site? I thought so. And now, MySpace is in China, and it wants to ensure that its users have proper instant-message (IM) capabilities at their cyberfingertips.
According to Reuters, MySpace China's CEO, Luo Chuan, is eager to see a proper IM system up and running and adding value to the site. Right now, a beta version is available for download. MySpace China is actually licensed by News Corp. and locally operated; International Data Group and China Broadband Capital Partners are involved in the venture.
Email could probably still be considered the major killer app of the Internet, but IM programs are right up there as well. Any social networking site that wants to be taken seriously has to give registered users the option of instant communication. MySpace China's sense of urgency is quite logical. And considering that China is a huge opportunity as far as the Web goes, Luo will want to be certain that his product works well. There are many other competing platforms with IM programs -- such as social networking site 51.com and Internet portal Tencent Holdings -- so surfers have a lot of choices. Getting it right the first time is crucial. Remember, China is second in the world when it comes to the number of Web surfers, and it's only going to continue to grow; there are more than 140 million connected individuals. Since MySpace China was launched in April, around 600,000 members have registered. There's obviously a lot of room for user expansion, but the growth certainly is noteworthy.
News Corp. was smart in pursuing a licensing strategy in China instead of going it alone, because the competition from local Web companies is intense and difficult to keep up with. It's been reported, for instance, that powerhouses such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) have had problems competing against stalwart site Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU ) . (Recently, Google partnered with SINA (Nasdaq: SINA ) to take on Baidu.) If News Corp. can succeed and build the MySpace brand in this part of the world, then it will have a great advantage over other media concerns both local and foreign.
Is an IM platform the only thing that MySpace China needs? Of course not -- but it's pretty darn important. Think of AOL's instant messenger and how inarguably vital that product is to the company. Anything to help promote stickiness on the site is worth doing well -- and, hey, what's a social networking site without stickiness? I see China as a great growth opportunity for Rupert Murdoch's empire. If his MySpace division can steal mindshare away from all the Chinese platforms, then News Corp. will be in a good position to expand its base of registered users and leverage it to build up its other brands.
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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned. As of this writing, he was ranked 10,141 out of 30,216 rated investors in the Motley Fool CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.