Should I puke until my stomach aches, or put on my Italian silk suit and go money-hunting? Those are the only ways I know how to react to the news, which came our earlier this week, that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation will become the new owner of teen hotspot MySpace.com, assuming that Intermix Media, which is MySpace’s parent firm, accepts Murdoch’s $580 million buyout offer.
I could say that I withheld commenting on the deal until now while I carefully considered my words. But the truth is I only read about the news yesterday. And my own words put the lie to the careful consideration bit. About the best I can offer in the face of a deal this monumentally pathetic is this compromise — how about if instead of vomiting I merely vent?
But before my bile gets the better of me, I should at least point you to one of the news reports on the deal, or the insider interview that Paid Content got with Ross Levinsohn. He is president of newly-formed Fox Interactive Media, the News Corp. division that will oversee MySpace if the deal is consummated. That laudatory write-up includes this observation: “when the deal closes in about three months, Fox (Interactive Media) will nearly double its (Internet) traffic by adding 27 million-plus unique users for roughly $21.48 a piece.”
Details like that confirm that if you’re a well-behaved new media startup, you should be shopping yourself around because the Fat Checkbooks are open. Of course there have been earlier such deals, of old media buying new media. And Rupert insinuated that he was looking to buy some cool stuff in a speech he delivered in April before the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
That MySpace.com is cool, I have no doubt. A few weeks ago I was working with a couple of dozen young people, from age 15 through the mid-30s. All they talked about was MySpace. We were supposed to be putting out a student newspaper together, but very often when I peeked over a shoulder to see what was being done, the kids were diddling around with their MySpace accounts.
One of the teenaged boys gave me a tour. His screen was filled with flirty messages from girls hailing. As I checked out the screen, I recall seeing a box that could be checked for “wife-swapping.” That, in combination with the age-segmentation feature, struck me as a rather interesting utility. The graphic artist in our group, a musician in his 20s, said he used his MySpace account to post some of his original music, and it helped him land performance gigs. In that regard he’s dead center of what seems to be the deal’s most attractive feature to Murdoch. As Forbes.com put it, “The tunes … are what drew the attention of the News Corp. chairman and chief executive. According to a New York Times report, a slew of bands, including R.E.M. and the Black Eyed Peas launched new releases via MySpace.”
So why am I so worked up about this deal? I guess it’s because the trend seems to be that popular new media will simply be absorbed by old media, which does nothing to solve the problem of concentrated ownership. Even without this sort of acquisition, Web media are stratifying into the Big Few and the millions that don’t matter, as I have lamented earlier. So a deal like this is not surprising. It simply makes me sad. There. At least I got it out of my system. Now I feel better. See you Monday.
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media