MySpace's Bold New CEO

Courtesy of Specifc Media/Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Why CEO Tim Vanderhook paid $35 million for the troubled social network and how he persuaded Justin Timberlake to join.

Few in Hollywood had heard of Specific Media, an online advertising network led by CEO Tim Vanderhook, until it came out of left field in late June to buy News Corp.'s troubled social networking platform MySpace for $35 million. The Irvine, Calif.-based company then shocked many by naming actor/pop star Justin Timberlake as a minority investor and creative force.

Was bringing in Timberlake mainly a marketing ploy? What is his exact role?

As we were designing our strategy to build this platform for content creators, we needed someone with that expertise who could help us design it. We have the technology expertise, but we really lacked a third leg of the stool. Justin will help us design the strategy from an artist's point of view.

What does that mean?

Obviously, he has tons of careers, and he is extremely busy. But he has an office. I communicate with him almost every single day. He has tons of ideas that he wants to get working on. When he does have an opening in his schedule, he will be working out of our offices. We are having him create a team that will be working out of the MySpace offices to help him execute what he wants to do while he is out. He has already canceled days to meet with us and go over the strategy.

How did you choose him?

We looked at who the most talented creative people are who fit this bill. We came up with a couple, and he was on the top of that list. We didn't know him. We met with his agent, Johnny [Wright]. I think we really struck a chord with Justin as he is passionate about helping other artists and giving back to that community. I think he was probably searching for something like this.

Why did MySpace fizzle?

The turning point was when News Corp. signed the ad deal with Google. With the strings that came attached to that deal and the amount of advertising that had to be involved, the site lost its direction. It went from a social network where people could connect to being more like a portal to drive page views to generate more advertising to achieve thresholds needed in the Google deal. I don't blame News Corp.; I think anyone would have done it given its size. But you started compromising the experience of the user for the benefit of revenue. And then Facebook came along and built a great product.

How much original content do you expect to add to the site?

On the music side, content is going to be licensed. Beyond that, we have a tremendous community of independent artists who create a ton of tracks. I would expect a significant amount of original programming built for consumption for the web rather than built for TV and repurposed for digital.

Who will create that content?

We have a number of partnerships that we are talking about but nothing I can announce today. Over the near term, you will see us get a little more active on announcements.