Tuesday, February 13, 2007

MySpace: Storefronts or whorefronts?

posted by Seun Olubodun
MySpace hosts over 100 million active accounts. But how many of them are real?

I casually browsed some profiles recently. Don't quote me, but I estimate at least 70 percent of all listed profiles were somehow related to porn, either in content or advertising. Yet scattered among the smut were legitimate business profiles -- law firms, entrepreneurs, musicians, and more -- all using the networking service for its original purpose.

It reminds me of Times Square years ago, when prostitutes, drug addicts, and pimps packed the streets, scaring tourists away. But brave visitors who ventured in anyway occasionally stumbled upon a day care center, a bakery, or another real business -- quite the anomaly in the seedy Square.

MySpace case in point: Roni Deutch (legit biz) vs. Dawn (smut peddler).

After seeing Dawn's profile countless times, I had to ask myself -– is MySpace the behemoth it claims to be? More important, do businesses want to be there?

Yes. And yes. Now pick yourself up off the floor, and hear me out.

MySpace is not an outdated elder statesman of the Web 2.0 phenomenon. It still plays an important role in the social networking landscape as one of the most recognized and extensive online communities available today. And like any tool, it is most powerful when properly used, fostering connection and communication.

However, here's what has to happen to make sure MySpace retains that power:

First, MySpace administrators must crack down on flagrant porn accounts. They exacerbate the issue by ignoring it. The site is slowly turning into a profile trash heap, with actual users lost in the pile.

Then MySpace must reclaim and recommit to these users. This requires caring about them, and seeing them as customers, not just one of 100 million notches on a headboard. It means asking them if they are getting any value from the site, and if not, what the company can do to fix that.

MySpace needs to be Rudy Giuliani. It needs to clean up its act for the good of its own business, and for all the smaller shops that depend on it for social networking. Otherwise, the real users will drift away to one of the countless new networking sites that pop up daily -- and not return.

Unless, of course, they're looking for porn.

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