The Story Of myspace
Brett Brewer helped launch the wildly popular website MySpace.com, made a ton of money when it sold, and now enjoys hanging out in Hawaii with his local girlfriend
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Brett Brewer says the key to MySpace’s
success is that it gives users what they
So what’s the deal with MySpace, and how did this business that grew its legs under a small California company become its own Internet empire?
As Brett Brewer, co-founder and former president of Intermix Media, nicely puts it, “Do you want the long version or the short?”
I chose the middle, read up on the long and will kindly give you the short.
In April 1999, Brewer and his UCLA college roommate decided to launch an entertainment Internet company called Intermix Media.
“We tried lots of different things. We’d sell music, movies and games online, that was 1999 and 2000,” says Brewer. “Then there was tons of competition from Amazon and those big retailers, so we started launching content sites that were essentially advertising-supported, and that side of the business started to grow rather quickly.”
In late 2000, Intermix sold the e-commerce division to an investment group and focused its energy on purely creating viral content sites. On these sites users would play games or send greeting cards to each other, which created lots of traffic and page views, which in turn generated ads. That went on through summer of 2003 when Intermix launched the site called MySpace.
“Two guys within the company, Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson (a familiar name and face to MySpace users because he’s everyone’s first friend), they were really the ones who came up with the idea and were the actual brainchildren for the MySpace launch,” says Brewer. “We’ve launched hundreds and hundreds of different sites at Intermix and lots have done OK and lots have obviously not worked. But MySpace, specifically from that first month or two, you could see that it was going to be a huge hit. It really had the metrics that an Internet provider looks at.”
So with so many involved in the start of MySpace, why was Anderson chosen as the face of MySpace, who instantly became the first friend for millions of people?
“Tom was just the most online. I mean, he’s online all the time and he just has that personality. So it just worked out that he’d be the face,” says Brewer. “Also, because it was a site that would use a lot of user feedback, it just worked to have them e-mail Tom. We never in a million years thought that Tom would have 125 million friends. Going out with Tom in the city is like going out with Mick Jagger. I mean, everyone knows him.”
As many people may remember, MySpace wasn’t the first social network of its kind. And essentially the site was built with the implication to simply compete with the already established domain called Friendster.
“Lots of people, even when we were launching the site, they would question us whether we wanted to start another social network because Friendster was already so big,” says Brewer. “They would ask us, ‘Are you sure you want to be No. 2 or No. 3 in that space?’”
Fortunately for them, they set the negative speculations aside and went ahead with the launch. And it didn’t take long before seemingly everyone was loggingon to MySpace. By 2004 MySpace had gained a whole lot of momentum.
Today, MySpace has an estimated 130 million users and was sold to Newscorp in October 2005 for about $675 million.
“We decided to sell based on the fact that we were a public company, so we had certain obligations to get the best return for our shareholders,” says Brewer. “Our stock was like $6 to $7 that summer and Newscorp paid us $12 a share, so to some degree, honestly, that was the biggest reason. But the other nice thing was Newscorp was the kind of company that could help it grow.”
Good news for MySpace users is that over the past year Newscorp has done a fantastic job at preserving the integrity and culture of the site.
And Brewer feels that the site is continuing to grow.
“Today MySpace signs up something like 320,000 new users a day,” he says. “It’s incredible, and one of the reasons that it’s continued to grow is that Newscorp has done a tremendous job growing internationally. That international growth is going to be key for MySpace because there’s only so many people in the U.S.”
For the uninitiated, MySpace is a social networking company that did basically everything right. For one, it designed its service to maximize the degree of creativity that its users would be able to enjoy in customizing their page. Second, MySpace embraced music and allowed the user to also use its domain to share music or even play their favorite songs. This opened the door to many bands and artists to use the site to connect with fans. And third, MySpace designed its business to be in constant change. It solicited user feedback and used it to continuously modify and improve the site.
“We launched the site, and the basic reason why we thought we could make our site more popular than others around is because we gave the users lots and lots more flexibility with their ability to post pictures, how often they could do stuff. The other thing was allowing users to essentially search the entire data base for people, as opposed to the Friendster model where you could only search your network,” says Brewer. “I think what else we did well is every single new feature for users came directly from the users themselves. Literally what was the most popular request, we would build that out next, so really our product was dictated 100 percent by the users.”
The corporate mentality, where big executives cram into a board room to discuss what’s the best decision, wasn’t the way that Intermix conducted business. And this laid-back attitude is what Brewer thinks pushed MySpace into an Internet league of its own.
“The reasons that the bigger media companies like Microsoft haven’t been so successful online is because they have that traditional corporate culture, where because they are super-smart and super-successful they think they can come up with what the users want and just roll it out,” adds the 34-year-old. “It just typically is just so much harder to guess especially in a younger generation, and the odds of 50-year-old executives to think in terms of what a 15-year-old or 25-year-old wants are pretty unlikely, and that’s been shown over and over.”
MySpace, a 100 percent advertising-
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