What If Google Had Bought MySpace (And What If They Do)?

AllThingsD’s Liz Gannes reports that MySpace is considering significant layoffs — perhaps up to 50 percent of its 1,000 person staff. We also know (and she repeats) that the site could be sold by News Corp. because of recent poor performance. (News Corp’s attitude implies that it had nothing to do with that decline.)

Reading this piece prompted me to think: what if Google had bought MySpace instead of News Corp? Google is currently struggling to define/execute a social strategy to better compete with the perceived rising threat of Facebook. Would owning MySpace have made things different now?

Recall that in July, 2006 News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch told Wired Magazine, “They [Google] could have bought MySpace three months before we did for half the price. They thought, ‘It’s nothing special. We can do that.’” Murdoch paid approximately $580 million, which means — if what he’s saying is true — that Google could have picked up the social site for a little more than $200 million. That seems like pocket change for Google now.

Would Google have been better able to manage the property to prevent its slide? Would it have integrated MySpace into other Google properties as it’s trying now to do with a “social layer”? Would Google have created “social search” much earlier? Might there have been an interesting local integration (see HotPot)? Or would MySpace still be where it is today if Google owned the company?

These would all seem to be “academic” questions because Google didn’t buy MySpace. To many observers that must now seem wise in retrospect though it appeared very foolish at the time of the sale.

In her article Gannes also discusses the possibility that a would-be buyer of MySpace is social games purveyor Zynga, where former MySpace CEO and Facebook COO Owen Van Natta now works. But what if Google emerges as a potential buyer too?

I suspect Google won’t make a run for MySpace for several reasons, partly because the brand and the site, despite its reinvention as an entertainment destination, are now “damaged” in the eyes of many. But what if Google did — wouldn’t that be crazy/ironic?

Postscript: As a quasi-related aside, what’s going on with Aardvark? The social site is still operating of course but it has been very quiet since Google bought the company in February for a mere $50 million. We haven’t seen any integration of its functionality anywhere on Google to my knowledge.

Postscript II: John Rosenfelder below makes an excellent comment about an issue I hadn’t considered:

MySpace might be a good buy for Google based on its existing relationships with rights holders in the music business.

Related posts:

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Facebook | Google: Acquisitions | Google: Business Issues | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://www.earbender.com John Rosenfelder

    MySpace might be a good buy for Google based on its existing relationships with rights holders in the music business.

  • http://screenwerk.com Greg Sterling

    That’s a terrific point and one I hadn’t thought of (obviously).

  • http://www.CompuMedicsPC.com CompuMedicsPCRepair

    MySpace is only good for the music biz. All I ever see on MySpace is pre-teens, and wannabe music artists and producers. Everyone moved on to Facebook, and now people are leaving Facebook, for something else, maybe Diaspora. Social networking revolves in a cycle, everyone is always looking for the next big thing to say they were there first.

  • http://derallo.me Derek Pangallo

    Even though myspace is floundering, this would still be a wise buy.

    They were going to pay $6bn for Groupon, a site that does nothing really special and has nothing unique. So what were they *really* buying? Userbase.

    There are surely lots of people who still use myspace daily to enshrine themselves. Myspace is still in one way far superior to Facebook: Myspace lets your browse people based on location and information in their profile. Why they never pushed it as a dating site seems stupid but it’s brilliant: Everyone just _uses_ it as one; that’s cooler than coming out and saying what it is.

    Facebook search sucks. And the better they try to make it, the worse it seems to get. The bing integration is clunky, and the opt-out suggestions in the drop-down are maddening. Google does all of that the best.

    Google’s big problem is that people use Google to Get somewhere else. The less time they spend on google.com, the better (for the user). Running Adsense views on their own property would be a big deal.

    It also seem a fitting purchase, since Myspace is really what gave rise to Youtube.

  • Sarra Donathan

    I agree that $200 million might have seemed like a unwise move but I don’t understand why Google wouldn’t want to capitalize on that. Of course it could always be re-branded. Facebook used to be the same era as MySpace and the games helped that era while other features were marketed to a older crowd.

    I didn’t think of adsense on their own property- what a great idea. There is a adult myspace too by the way. The are a lot of ways to use something small for something much bigger. Google now is also thinking- strike that implementing a ebook section too. So they have their hands in a lot of pots and it would have been a wise move.

  • http://www.tcampbell.net T Campbell

    Buying Myspace would be a terrible decision for Google at any time. Many commentators have already picked on Google’s lack of “social DNA.” That’s not a problem that a simple acquisition can fix, as Google has already proven with other acquisitions.

    I’m not entirely sure it’s a problem Google needs to fix, either. Why does it need to play Myspace’s and Facebook’s game? Leave them alone to do what they do best (or, in current Myspace’s case, slowly collapse into a desperate, failing self-parody).

    There are lots of other areas to conquer. Google’s main reason to care about Facebook is ad revenue, but for many companies, Google Ads will always have a superior ROI to social ads. And Facebook Search is going to be even more laughable than Google Social, assuming Zuck is foolish enough to actually go forward with it.

  • http://www.dresdner-rand.de randOM

    As a myspace USER I have to state: It’s not surprising me, that myspace slides down as the functionality does. Long loading=waiting times, confusing layout, loads of disturbing advertizes… If Google was doing better? Maybe.

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