Matt Hartley of the Globe and Mail was first in line to sit down with the new General Manager of MySpace Canada and had a chance to chat about it's ongoing battle with Facebook for members and ad dollars.
Fresh from a stint at CanWest, Dave Stevens joins a social network in flux. Although MySpace still lays claim to the crown as the world's largest online social network (with nearly 120 million users) it is ceding ground to rival Facebook and losing the battle for new members in key international markets - including Canada.
Even more alarming for MySpace was the revelation that in April, Facebook's unique monthly visitors equalled MySpace's totals for the first time, with each site drawing about 115 million uniques.
MySpace is the sixth most visited website in the world, according to data compiled by Web tracker Alexa Internet Inc., and the bulk of its users reside in the U.S. - still the biggest market for online advertising dollars - where it has twice the footprint of Facebook. However, it has trailed Facebook in signing up new members in international markets and is ramping up efforts to draw in users in Korea, India and China.
In Canada, MySpace doesn't crack the Top 10 most visited websites. With so many Canadians embracing social networking - Facebook has more than 13 million Canadian users, compared with about four million for MySpace - Canada represents a potential gold mine of advertising dollars if Mr. Stevens and his team can get them to ditch the F-word and come to MySpace. Online advertising spending in Canada surged past $1.2-billion in 2007, according to a recent Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada report.
It sounds like the plan for MySpace is to move to more of a portal-based model which will allow them to attract new advertising dollars. One of the ways MySpace is expanding its ad offerings is through the use of takeovers - which allow marketers to create a themed main page for MySpace, complete with video ads and games. Likely a path that Facebook won't ever take as they continue to move in the opposite direction and clean up their overall design.
Stevens called Canada a priority for MySpace International - "The surge of Facebook has taken over some of the buzz from social networking, but I don't see that lasting long. ... Canadians just need to be further educated about MySpace, and we're in the process of doing that."