Murdoch Stresses Targeting

News Corp. announced fourth-quarter earnings yesterday. During the earnings call Rupert Murdoch stressed the value of its Internet properties, which has yet to be shown in reported financials. To read into this, the value of MySpace’s 50 million dedicated users hasn’t been monetized anywhere near its potential.

Our mandate now is clear: to monetize this vast audience with targeted advertising made possible by the wealth of information we have from our engaged, passionate users. The revenue and profit potential from monetizing this audience, even a fraction of it, is significant, he said.

A few questions arise from this: what is the best way to integrate advertising into a user experience that a dedicated, yet possibly fickle (teenage) demographic has gotten very accustomed to? There is a dangerous risk in inferiorating (made-up word) the user experience, while infuriating the user base.

MySpace has proved to be extremely sticky and the barriers to compete are high (users have established networks of friends and sunken investments in their time to create their content-rich MySpace home pages). But anything can happen with a demographic for which viral marketing resonates so well. And new challengers continue to enter the social networking space to share the wealth. It’s MySpace’s game to lose.

It has been proved by some (Google, Topix) that targeted ads, if targeted enough, aren’t seen as intrusive but rather part of the content of a given page. So it will be interesting to see how and if MySpace pulls this off. The degree that local ads play a part in this strategy and what channels FIM will use to bring it all together are also important questions. The company is vague about its plans in this respect but it is interesting to extrapolate its strategy, given the sheer volume of the MySpace user base. We’ll be watching this closely.

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