New Myspace Launches

1:00 PM PST 06/12/2013 by Shirley Halperin

"People come to Myspace to discover creativity," CEO Tim Vanderhook tells The Hollywood Reporter.

One of the internet’s best known brands reveals a massive makeover today.

Myspace, among the earliest social networks originally -- founded in 2003 -- re-launches with new features and a cleaner horizontal look meant to work seamlessly across desktop and mobile devices. Gone is the unruly stream of “add” messages replaced instead by a photo-centric layout that echoes the pinboard feel of Pinterest. Along the bottom: a user-friendly music player that ostensibly links the old site, once used by scores of artists as a music sampling hub, to the new. Via the My Radio option, Myspace users can access 53 million songs through the player, which “delivers faster streaming and intuitive drag-and-drop functionality for a superior music experience,” says the company.

“I really think people come to Myspace to discover creativity, Myspace CEO Tim Vanderhook tells The Hollywood Reporter. “They want to find creative people, music, other expressions, like animated gifs photos and videos. That really is the unique aspect, and music is a key component and important piece of that.”

Vanderhook and his brother Chris, in partnership with singer Justin Timberlake, bought the company in June 2011 for the bargain basement price of $35 million and, along with the purchase, announced that the pop star would play a key role in its facelift. The brothers freely admit: “People told us we were crazy for buying Myspace and that we should change the name,” recalls Tim. “What we saw was that there was a need for an ecosystem that directly caters to this creative community -- this class or creative-based economy from the last 15 years. So what we've tried to do is tap into the history associated with it and the value that we saw in the gap of the market.”

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And there’s no denying the power of a brand name, which the Vanderhooks saw as a big plus. Adds Tim: “Myspace the brand has so much energy behind it, both with consumers and press and what we tried to identify early on was that the magic of Myspace was at this interesting intersection between creative expression, community, promotion and discovery. And that really served as our guiding light to figure out what features we needed.”

You have to give the Vanderhooks credit for knowing their own blind spots. Chris confesses, “We were not in the music business and didn't have a lot of familiarity with it.” Enter: Timberlake, who insisted, “’We can't just be another jukebox.’ People got discovered because we promoted them and that's the great part of Myspace. So how are we going to do that so that was a specific conversation I had with Justin.” The result: “We're taking our best and most expensive real estate -- our homepage -- and we're promoting regular people in the community that we think are doing cool things.”

And Myspace promises to provide its users with the tools that spur their creativity -- be it a GIF creator or advances in photo editing and posting.

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Privacy concerns remain -- watch any episode of the disturbing Dateline show To Catch a Predator and it's clear that many of those inappropriate adult-to-minor advances began on Myspace -- but the Vanderhooks have prioritized controls that allow a profile to remain private. Still, they don't apologize for anonymity. "I think one big difference with Myspace is that you don't have to be your actual identity," says Tim. "You can be whoever you want with any image or brand you create."

In 2012, ComScore ranked Myspace at No. 46 out of the top 50 sites, with 26.8 million unique visitors on average. Those numbers are nothing to sneeze at, but the Vanderhooks along with Timberlake are looking to establish a new site that's bigger and better and there's no greater motivator, it seems, than supremely low expectations. Says Tim: "It was like ultimate freedom. ... Everyone had decided Myspace's future so it created this unbelievable opportunity to explore all different areas and what we developed was the most beautiful website on the internet today."

As of June 12, any profiles built on the classic Myspace have been upgraded to the new platform. Users can log in using their old Myspace account credentials, or via Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter: @THRMusic

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