Lesson from MySpace: “Never Stand Still”

MySpace has gone from fast rising social network to a fast falling has been, waiting to be sold by News Corp. In terms of mindshare, it’s already joined the deadpool. Chris Thorpe flagged up this great blog post this morning:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/jaggeree/status/32066764669980672″]

The blogger, John Willshire, is also a member of a band, and he managed to cobble together a new presence for his band, Gamages Model Train Club, by pasting together a number of other services: Tumblr, Soundcloud, iTunes, Facebook, Google Analytics and Feedburner.

Most articles written about the fall of MySpace focus on the lack of focus after News Corp acquired the social network. Rupert Murdoch turned his attention to other areas of his empire, and MySpace simply failed to keep pace with Facebook.

John’s big lesson from MySpace is that digital businesses must never stand still. As he says, MySpcace was never easy to use, which left open the huge opportunity that Facebook exploited. More than that, while MySpace had been improving incrementally before News Corp acquired it, those improvements stopped after it was bought by the Beast.

Don’t launch things small and often, let’s launch things infrequently, but talk about all the changes we make at once.  So don’t talk about anything in between that spoils this, please.  Oh, and we need a major review of what we’re doing with the site, platform, tech, so don’t do anything till that’s complete….

…and so and and so forth.  By trying to sort everything all at once, as old, established companies want to, and as you’d have to do with a newspaper redesign, Myspace stopped evolving.

Lessons for news organisations

When I started in digital journalism, I worked for small organisations, and we ran on shoestring budgets. It wasn’t until I joined the BBC that I worked for a well-resourced operation, and even then the BBC News website had (and still has) a tiny budget compared to BBC TV (but then my former colleagues in radio will say the same thing, and be right).

However, with integration, bringing together the print and digital or broadcast and digital newsrooms, resourcing is improving, but those digital organisations are now being brought into larger, sometimes less nimble, organisational structures. It’s a challenge that only a few news organisations have successfully met.