MySpace's new owners, Justin Timberlake and the Vanderhook brothers, Tim and Chris, are planning a major revamp of the one-time social networking giant. As new Entertainment chief Roger Mincheff told TheWrap, "the revolution is coming."
Already the site -- which Timberlake and the Vanderhooks' Specify Media bought from News Corp. in June 2011 -- has launched a new music player. But Mincheff says that's just one small part of “a new MySpace coming that delivers on the legacy -- meaning music, social -- but brings so much more in terms of assets and experience.”
MySpace will produce a slew of new original video programming that will air on MySpace and will be syndicated to other outlets. It will also be in the business of acquiring content from new media studios like Electus.
The timing of this launch remains unclear, but with Timberlake running the show, MySpace is taking another run at turning itself into a go-to destination for social entertainment, and Mincheff, a former Fox exec, has been tapped to run its entertainment wing.
Charged with developing and acquiring -- and even syndicating -- original video content, Mincheff talked with TheWrap about this new, secret social-media plan, Timberlake’s role in the company and how you reinvigorate a decaying brand.
What brought you to MySpace?
Justin used a phrase once that kind of hooked me: "You’re not cool because you say you’re cool -- you’re cool because you do something cool." MySpace has to do a lot right, but content is one of them -- and content is a differentiator. Justin and the Vanderhook brothers represent such a force, such an energy.
At MySpace, we can build and make great content that helps brand us and build equity in the company. That’s what everybody is trying to do. We have this phenomenal differentiator because no matter what you think of MySpace, when you look at the roster of bands, musicians, comedians and models that have come off of MySpace, we arguably are one of best farm systems in the world.
As someone who worked in branding at Fox, how do you evaluate the MySpace brand -- and how can you improve upon it?
MySpace has unbelievable brand awareness. In the most recent-brand awareness study, we’re right below Facebook. The next obvious question is: "Great they know you, but what do they think of your brand?"
We can’t ignore fact that there’s a brand issue we have to address. But we have three things going for us.
One, there’s an incredible passion and nostalgia for the brand.
Two, what an unbelievable story. I’m going to age myself, but I can’t think of a story other than Lee Iacocca and Chrysler that would speak to what happens when MySpace completes this journey. People love the rise, even more they love the fall -- but everyone’s favorite is the comeback. And this is just a phenomenal story in the making.
Three, the fact that Justin is a creative driving force in this company ... As easy as it was for people to not like News Corp. it’s just as easy to love Justin and this brand.
So it was to the company’s benefit that News Corp. sold it?
They admit they screwed up. They took something so cool, so indie ... I’m not picking on News Corp., but clearly the shift in MySpace’s perception happened under News Corp. When they made decision to bring on Justin, the reason I feel that was so smart, it stopped becoming News Corp.’s black eye and became, "Can Justin save MySpace?"
We’ll get to Justin in a second, but I want to ask about what you will be doing. What kind of video are we talking here -- a YouTube channels model, a Netflix/Hulu original content model, a network TV model?
Those are some loaded phrases. We are MySpace’s internal production and entertainment company, so we are the content producing arm of MySpace. Anybody can make great content, but we are the home for discovery and can leverage one of the best farm systems in world.
In terms of producing video, we will both produce video and acquire video. We will work with partners ... anything I do that elevates our talent is a win for us -- even if it is working with studios, production companies, record labels and creating content on their behalf, or them creating content for the farm system.
So how will people be experiencing this content?
There’s a part of this that I cannot speak to because there is a new MySpace coming. I’ve seen it. I’m blown away by it. There is a new MySpace coming, which delivers on the legacy -- meaning music, social -- but brings so much more in terms of assets and experience.
And some of this content will be created within and sent elsewhere?
We will absolutely syndicate. It’s just as much as a win for us to see our content off of MySpace as on MySpace. Take "National Lampoon’s Vacation" and “Animal House” -- that was a brand that really represented a sensibility and a tone. For you to see a MySpace show on another network makes absolute sense because it represents our town, who and what we are.
My challenge is this: if I were Yahoo I could say, "Hey if you click on this, these are three sections we’re in." My limitation right now is I’ve seen the new MySpace, you haven’t. There is a physical home for original programming on MySpace as well as different components. If and when I get permission, I would love to show you.
How are you using Justin in this? Will he go to celebrities and musicians that he knows and ask them to create original content?
It is very important to note that Justin is not the celebrity face; he’s not the spokesperson for MySpace. He will not be in advertising or on the logo. He is not doing video messages on the website.
He is an owner and the creative driving force. He has been very proactive about building the machine. Justin has been an unbelievable resource and has in every way been behind all elements of MySpace’s re-imagination.
Going back to what kinds of content we’ll expect to see, will you get lesser-known MySpace acts and users to submit user-generated content?
The much better word is curated, filtered and mentored. If you look at relevance, MySpace might have reached its height at a time where bands or comedians had a home on MySpace. That doesn’t exist for anyone anywhere anymore. No one has a home in one place. Everyone uses YouTube, everyone uses Facebook, everyone uses Twitter.
The one thing we have access to is we have unbelievable data and analytics, an entire team where that’s all they do -- who is driving the most viewership, who is bringing the most social media weight. We can tell you who the hottest new comedian is coming out of New York City. We can tell you about an amazing Maroon 5-like band doing unbelievable numbers.
Don’t forget, MySpace has a tremendously successful record with content – “Married on MySpace with Endemol, “Jerk All Stars with Electus. We will absolutely acquire content form entities like that, like Electus.
And what about the companies you might buy content from?
I can tell you we’re collaborative, but nothing will prove that to you more than us doing a show and letting another network air it. We do acquire. There just isn’t really a business model. I don’t see us acquiring content form Google, YouTube, Yahoo, AOL. If they came knocking, we would take the meeting though.
Well what you are describing sounds a bit like a competitor to the YouTube channel initiative rolling out over the year.
I feel we have a big advantage in a very unique way. We have the benefit of a very clear voice and direction. We are youth. We are music. We are gritty and we are authentic. “Jerk All-Stars” was set in the world of music and dance. That’s a perfect show for us.
I don’t 100 percent understand YouTube’s strategy, but they are YouTube/Google and they have weight to make anything they want work.
One final piece, don’t forget Justin’s partner is the Vanderhooks and Specific Media, the largest video ad network in the world. Yes we’re this big platform, but how many platforms have an even bigger distribution and marketing resource than what Specific Media represents?
Just to clarify, MySpace relaunched in late 2010, transitioning form being a social network to an online media hub. This new MySpace is taking that same idea but relaunching with not only the new MySpace music player but also a video portal?
The new MySpace ... that’s part of it ... if that’s going to be expressed properly, the only thing I’d want to say on that is the new MySpace will be a new MySpace.
The existing MySpace, even the latest version of it, is still built on something launched in 2003.
There is a massive existing audience. We're going to honor and continue to program to MySpace as it exists today and that is our priority, but the revolution is coming and it’s on the horizon.
I don’t expect that the new MySpace happens in a day. I do expect that elements of it will get released. It’s not as if, "Hey on this day new MySpace was born." There will be a window of time where artists, content platforms, music, events ... where a whole myriad of things that collectively represent the relaunch.