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Users Crowd into MySpace

When News Corp. (NWS) announced in July that it would buy MySpace for $580 million, some observers wondered whether the media giant would kill the Internet site's phenomenal popularity (see BW Online, 08/16/05, "The Birth of"). But MySpace founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson say the social-networking pioneer is growing even faster than before.

MySpace has been adding about 150,000 new users a day during the first half of November, up from about 100,000 a day last summer, CEO DeWolfe said, citing internal reports. "The growth rate is amazing," he notes (see BW Online, 11/14/05, "MySpace Growing Even Faster Since Acquisition").

UP TO NO. 4. The site's growth in visitor numbers, which had leveled off during the summer, has picked up again. In October, MySpace logged 24.2 million unique users, up 12% from 21.6 million in September, according to a new report from researcher comScore Networks. A copy of the report, which is scheduled to be released officially to the public later this month, was provided to BusinessWeek Online. The number of unique visitors was roughly flat at 21 million in July, August, and September.

Traffic has picked up again, too. MySpace had 11.6 billion page views in October, displacing eBay (EBAY) as the fourth-busiest site, according to the comScore Networks report. The number of page views stayed around the same level -- in the 9 billion range -- from July through September. The site has more page views than any Internet destination except Yahoo! (YHOO), Time Warner/AOL (TWX), and MSN (MSFT). It has nearly twice the number of page views as Google (GOOG) which logged 6.6 billion in October.

By way of comparison, social-networking rival Facebook is much smaller, with 3.3 billion page views in October.

FOX EDGINESS. About 90% of MySpace's growth comes from the U.S. MySpace anticipates more international expansion, and Anderson and DeWolfe plan to visit London on business in the second half of November.

At first blush, the pairing of News Corp. and MySpace might seem strange. MySpace is a social-networking site where people form extended networks of friends who communicate on home pages loaded with text, photos, and music. It has become hugely popular as a venue for independent music, filling a void created by MTV's shift to reality shows and hip hop. Its pages let the freewheeling nature of its members come through.

Some thought the pairing with News Corp., a media conglomerate known as the publisher of conservative publications such as The Weekly Standard and the New York Post, a bit odd. But Fox Broadcasting Company, known for shows such as Married...with Children, The Simpsons, X-Files, and 24, has pushed the envelope much in the way that MySpace has.

MORE PAIRINGS? Anderson says MySpace's success stems from its focus on pop culture, as opposed to technology for its own sake. "Things are so different in L.A. as opposed to [Silicon] Valley," Anderson says. "In the Valley, one week it's podcasting, and then the next week it's RSS. The media jumps on these things. We look at it more from the standpoint of popular culture than technology."

Some MySpace members protested the acquisition originally, fearful that News Corp. would censor or impinge upon MySpace. But that hasn't happened so far, DeWolfe and Anderson say. MySpace appears to have gone about its business, rolling out a new record label that features home-grown bands.

So far, predictions of MySpace's demise have not borne out. The closely watched deal is likely to spur more consolidation (see BW Online, 08/29/05, "Internet Mergers: Who's Next?") in the once-maligned Internet market.


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