MySpace’s phenomenal popularity with the teens and early twentysomethings generated a $580 million acquisition by the seventysomething Rupert Murdoch. Here are some truly impressive recent metrics on the site (according to comScore):
- 24.2 million unique users in October 2005
- 11.6 billion page views in October 2005
- More page views than any destination other than Yahoo!, AOL and MSN.
- Twice the page views of Google
But what goes up …
Now the MySpace backlash has begun. Numerous stories about stalkers and sexual predators using MySpace to target teens have started to appear. While most users of MySpace at this point won’t care about such stories, this is a PR nightmare in the making that threatens to take over the MySpace "success narrative."
Hence the consideration of a "MySpace Safety Czar." According to an article that appeared in the WSJ on Friday:
News Corp. is scrambling to make MySpace a safer place for young people. News Corp. plans to appoint a "safety czar" to oversee the site, launch an education campaign that may include letters to schools and public-service announcements to encourage children not to reveal their contact information. It also is considering limiting access to certain groups, such as "swingers," to those over 18; blocking search terms that predators could use to locate kids; and encouraging users between 14 and 16 to make their profiles "private," meaning they can only be viewed by people they already know.
"We’re going to take some pretty dramatic steps to provide industry-leading safety," says Ross Levinsohn, president of News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media unit, which includes MySpace.
As the Journal points out those measures might strike at the "cool factor" that has made MySpace such a hit among teens, who can be fickle and might not like the introduction of controls or restrictions. We’ll see if the site can navigate this rough patch and regain control of its own story.