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MySpace redesigns, tries to stay in the Facebook game

Fighting to stay relevant in a Facebook age, MySpace is overhauling its image as a place to connect over shared interests in entertainment.

Associated Press

Fighting to stay relevant in a Facebook age, MySpace is overhauling its image as a place to connect over shared interests in entertainment.

MySpace was once the kooky, colorful king of the Internet.

It let you mercilessly rank friends, post sepia cell phone photos, wallpaper your page with a full body shot of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. It was a virtual bedroom littered with things you loved.

But in just a few years, it fell hard. Today, MySpace has roughly 130 million users. Facebook has 500 million. And a hit movie devoted to its salacious rise and young CEO.

So if you're MySpace, what do you do? You throw up the white flag and stop trying to be Facebook.

You start over.

Fans of the world, welcome to the new MySpace. It's not powered by data, it's powered by you.

Wednesday marked the beginning of the new MySpace, with its stripped-down logo of my[_____], and a video touting the above message. The changes will roll out through November. Instead of traditional social networking in which you track ex-girlfriends and post golden retriever pictures, it will be a "social entertainment destination," a place for celebrity news, television, music and video games.

The new look is cleaner, with simple tabbed browsing and fewer, better placed advertisements. People will use profiles to talk about movies and stars, to suggest music to friends. They'll get recommendations in the vein of Netflix.

"They're repositioning themselves and rebranding," said Julia Gorzka, a marketing strategist and founder of Brand Tampa, a social networking site. "It's a really smart move. They have a lot of work ahead of them, but it's really interesting, trying to move past their reputations."

At one social media panel discussion, Gorzka heard someone describe MySpace as being for "pedophiles and bands."

"It doesn't get much worse for a business if that's what people think of you," she said.

But you can see why they'd think it. MySpace is a regular character in crime stories.

In September, a 20-year-old Clearwater man was arrested after police said he molested a 15-year-old he met on MySpace. And the MySpace love triangle of convicted Pinellas Park murderer Rachel Wade played out in court this year.

Then there's Hiccup Girl Jennifer Mee, charged this week with first degree murder. Her MySpace page, since taken down, was filled with pictures of money and a quote that said "Diva is the female version of a hustla." She asked MySpace friends for $100 a few days before her arrest.

Who going to let me hold 100bollas till da 1st if u willing to do it comment me or write me a message.

MySpace was born in 2003 on the heels of a similar site, Friendster. It immediately became popular with young people and bands seeking free tools to meet people and market themselves.

"You can basically customize your own website," said Eli Woodlief, 26, who lives in New Port Richey and still uses MySpace to promote his symphonic metal band, Dementia. "You can change it up so it has the image of what you're trying to portray. It's the best website out there for promoting still, even though MySpace is dying on the personal level."

Christofer Drew Ingle's band Never Shout Never shot to fame through MySpace. But even he has moved to Facebook and Twitter.

"I think MySpace is dead," said Ingle, 19, of Joplin, Mo. "I don't really log onto that thing anymore. Wasted a lot of my youth on that thing, promoting and making friends and talking to kids. MySpace kind of oversaturated the music scene."

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought MySpace for $580 million in 2005, the same year YouTube launched, and the site reigned supreme for a while. Everyone had a MySpace page, from politicians to porn stars to Nobel Prize-winning writer Doris Lessing. But Facebook, previously open only to college students, sold a stake to Microsoft and started expanding.

College dropouts. Your boss. Your mom.

The gap narrowed. By 2007, Facebook had attracted 30 million users, gaining on MySpace's 68 million. MySpace revamped to look more like Facebook. It added status updates, more photo and song space. But many people were already gone.

"It was like MySpace for grownups," said Chris Stainton, 40, member of Tampa '80s band Rubix Cubed. "So I switched over to Facebook from MySpace."

He stays on MySpace to promote his band.

"These days I get very little out of it," he said. "I only maintain a presence there because I have to. We live in a world of a three-second attention span. If it's bulky or cumbersome, we won't use it."

MySpace has pushed news of its redesign through viral videos and chat forums. The website also has the open ears of 298,779 fans.

On its Facebook page.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857. Times staff writer Jay Cridlin contributed to this report, which contains information from the Associated Press.

MySpace redesigns, tries to stay in the Facebook game 10/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 11:36pm]
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