But MySpace is no laughing matter for Tim and Chris Vanderhook, brothers who aren’t grim about the social network’s chances at a full-fledged comeback. The pair cofounded the interactive advertising company Specific Media with their other brother, Russell. They’ve been running MySpace, somewhat stealthily, since late June 2011, with Tim as the chief executive and Chris as the chief operating officer.
The duo fully understands MySpace’s extreme perception problem.
In a moment of honesty, I recounted the radio DJ story to the Vanderhooks. They responded with equal candor.
“That’s the old MySpace. Why would you think any different? Most people out there, up until about a week ago, had nothing really new to go on,” Chris told me. “And by the way, we’re not clueless and live in some dungeon and don’t understand that. We bought MySpace full well … we knew what we were dealing with.”
What are they dealing with exactly?
At worst, the Vanderhooks paid $35 million for a disgraced site overshadowed by Facebook and abandoned by social networkers looking for their real friends elsewhere.
At best, what they acquired is access to a creativity community of artists, DJs, directors, producers, labels, and a built-in streaming infrastructure that gives these people the capability to share their music with fans.
With an existing audience of 70 million monthly active users — 30 million of whom are in the U.S. — all may not be so gloomy.
Enter the new MySpace, with a design that’s so dramatic and bold that a recently released preview video got people all around the web talking and possibly rethinking their disdain for the site they’ve long forgotten.
“I believe [MySpace] has a shot,” Altimeter Group principal analyst Brian Solis told me. “People are worn out from Facebook, not sure what to make of Google+ … this might be the right time, right place for MySpace.”
In case you missed the memo, MySpace is no longer a place for friends — it’s a place for creatives.
“MySpace is a social network for the creative community to connect with their fans,” Tim said. “Obviously, MySpace has a huge heritage of music … but we think the opportunity is the creative community at large: filmmakers, recording artists, producers, DJs, directors.”
The point, he said, is to help these content producers bring their media to the people who want to enjoy it.
But what does MySpace have that other social platforms don’t? Streaming infrastructure, Tim said.
“MySpace is the only social platform where the artist can come upload their music. We create a catalog for them … and they stream it out to consumers for free,” he said. “That streaming infrastructure was never really replicated on any social network, and for us, it was really one of the main reasons why the artist community still had a very positive affinity for the company.”