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MySpace Is Now Specific Media’s Problem — or Advantage

Written on
Jun 30, 2011 
Author
Gavin Dunaway  |

ADOTAS – It’s official: MySpace is now Specific Media’s problem. Oh, and actor/singer Justin Timberlake’s, who also took an ownership stake and apparently is going to drive the creative vision for the company. He sings, he dances, he acts, he produces and he guides forlorn social networks back into popular use — is there anything the curly-haired wonder boy can’t do?

Specific may have bought a real jalopy, but depending on how well the social network is fixed up, it could be a boon for the ad network.

It’s fitting that the acquisition news is all over the web on Social Media Day, but Thursday, June 30 also marks the end of News Corp.’s fiscal year — it’s understandable that Rupert Murdoch didn’t want that revenue black hole on his balance sheet anymore.

Originally acquired for $580 million, MySpace was pretty much given away for $35 million – when it first appeared on the auction block, News Corp. was seeking a laughable $100 million. Actually I’m a little surprised News Corp. didn’t pay Specific Media to get rid of it, though News Corp. is taking a minority equity stake in Specific.

The layoffs came quickly (I can’t believe people would be working for MySpace without an updated resume), with about half of the 400-500 employees getting the ax. How many rounds of layoffs (and CEO-oustings) have we seen during the long, slow, depressing decline of MySpace? I remember being surprised in the last two years any time I received a hiring announcement from MySpace.

The decline really stemmed from News Corp.’s takeover in 2005 and at its heart were display ads. The parent company was making hand over fist in revenue from chintzy display ads and a deal with Google to power search and contextual ads, but at the price of annoying users with poor site functionality (how many pages did you have to sift through to make a comment?). Believe it or not, Facebook has always held user experience above revenue (especially now after tripping over its privacy policy so many times) and that was why it stole MySpace’s users.

But now the oft-redesigned social network is Specific’s problem, and it’s blowing some commentators minds that an ad network owns a social network. Specific wasn’t high on the tech media’s radar; indeed, the biggest splash Specific has made outside of the ad tech world was a lawsuit that claimed Specific used (previously) hard-to-delete Flash cookies for targeting purposes — which was kicked out of federal court a few months ago with little fanfare coverage.

But Specific is a big-ass display ad network — a reach of 170.9 million U.S. uniques and 79% of the U.S. Internet population — known for its targeting and dating mining technology.

“Our Data Universe enables us to gather insights from more than 2.6 million sites worldwide, giving us visibility into the digital consumption of 550 million global users each month.” Specific’s website reads. “Because our data is proprietary, it’s unique. Differentiated data means differentiated audiences.”

I didn’t get an answer when I asked if Specific Media was planning to incorporate MySpace user data into its display and video targeting services — there may not be one at this point. In theory, Specific will be able to do what Facebook won’t – anonymize profile data to add to audience segments for targeted display campaigns, and enable advertisers to reach potential targets on MySpace.

We keep wondering why Facebook swears it’s not building an ad network even though it has such large tracts of data that would be a boon to targeted display campaigns — Specific won’t get the same kind of reach (the company claims it will reach 70 million users but 50 million is the media-sanctioned number), but it’s pretty sweet to have so many uniques traversing an owned property.

I’ve read more than a few articles suggesting you delete your MySpace profile now, and a few that say it won’t matter as MySpace has backed up of all that data (oh no, they have pictures of my emo period!). But can you imagine the vast loads of outdated, crap data sitting in MySpace’s back pocket? Most of it must be absolutely useless for mining or targeting.“Hey Jenny, we see you liked Fallout Boy five years ago — check out this new line of studded belts!

Honestly, I don’t think being MySpace being owned by an ad network is going to ward anyone off other than the most privacy sensitive.

There’s another interesting play here for Specific: video real estate. Last year it broke into online video ads with the acquisition of BBE. Recently BBE boasted quite a boost from its parent company’s targeting technology: a 46% increase in view-through rates, a 21% increase in click-through rates and a 55% increase in reach for first quarter 2011. Beyond display and video advertising, Specific also dabbles in producing brand-supported video content.

MySpace offers a new outlet for these branded videos as well as the opportunity to monetize 67 million video streams monthly.

Finally, Specific has suggested it will offer advertisers “socially-activated advertising campaigns, enabling brands to turn their campaigns viral by allowing users to share their favorite ads with friends.” It could easily set up new ad products similar to Facebook that offer advertisers the ability to anonymously target based on demographics and related user-generated content.

“With [Specific's] emphasis on video and data, this is about access,” commented interclick CEO Michael Katz. ”They gain access to a lot of inventory for their video offering. They also gain access to some quality data including the search data and registration data.”

Much agreed — and for $35 million it’s a steal! Of course the social network is also in ruins, but that’s why Justin Timberlake was brought in, to bring the sexy back. We’ll have to wait till later this summer when Specific holds a press conference with Timberlake to see what they’re up to.




Gavin Dunaway is Editor, U.S. at AdMonsters, a leading trade publication, event producer and service provider for the online advertising industry. Previously, he had been Senior Editor of Adotas, where he arrived after years of ping-ponging around various industry publications. This Washington, D.C. native and George Mason University graduate also enjoys playing electric guitar so loud that the walls shake.

Reader Comments.

it’s only a matter of time before JT goes back on tour after his ‘acting’ career tanks, and that’s where this database comes into play. NSync reunion data mining…the demographics overlap!

(Okay, maybe I have a laminated poster I can’t wait to put back up.)

Posted by mojomogul | 1:52 am on July 3, 2011.

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