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Justin Timberlake Previews New Myspace, Talks Importance of Fan Engagement at Media Roundtable [REPORT]

Myspace Team Photo
Myspace Owners Tim and Chris Vanderhook and Justin Timberlake

When Justin Timberlake decided to join Myspace's new leadership team, his core vision was to help build a social network that would help artists connect to fans and other artists in innovative new ways. That's ultimately what made Myspace such a powerful social platform when it first launched in 2003. During a private meeting on Thursday, Timberlake explained, "Imagine if David Bowie, Andy Warhol and Stanley Kubrick or somebody like that would all get in a room? What would happen? That's what the new Myspace intends to do in a forward-thinking way."

A small group of reporters and writers was invited to Beverly Hills' swanky SLS hotel on Thursday to meet with new Myspace owners Tim and Chris Vanderhook and Justin Timberlake to talk about their ideas and plans for the social network that is currently in beta phase. Myspace developers and product managers were on hand as well to provide attendees a personal demo of the site.

After a general introduction to the new Myspace and creating my own user account to toy around with the site, a select group of writers was ushered into a private meeting room for a 30 minute sit-down with MySpace's top executives. The room was set up with comfy white leather couches that there were positioned in a circle to invoke an intimate interview setting.

Brothers Tim and Chris Vanderhook first entered the room, followed by Justin Timberlake (and pals Kenna and Scott Vener) all excited and ready to talk Myspace. Timberlake dressed business casual for the occasion wearing a fitted black suit, dark shirt and no tie. Before kicking off the sit-down, the Vanderhooks and Timberlake all went around the room to introduce themselves before taking a seat and answer questions. I stood up when Timberlake shook my hand, but he smiled and suggested, "No, no, please don't stand up." Such a gentleman.

One of the things that struck me throughout the meeting is how truly involved Timberlake is in the new Myspace initiative. He's not just a celebrity face of it to help market his investment. Timberlake was articulate, took time to answer questions and was very engaged with everybody in the room. There were moments that when the Vanderhooks were answering a part of a question that Timberlake would look around and made eye contact with all in the room, nodding and giving everyone non-verbal personal attention. (Quite frankly, it was hard to suppress the screaming fanboy inside of me who wanted to cheer "I'm sitting seven feet from JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE and he just shook my hand!" Amazing.) 

Timberlake explained that each artist can create an artist profile that will list their "Top 8" fan listing. He told me that he believes this is a stand out feature that will help artists to get to know their fans. The pop icon told the group that he likes using Twitter to hear from fans but that the amount of messages he receives is overwhelming. The "Top 8" fan feature will be a powerful new addition that can give artists a lot of information, plus it enables artists to engage with fans in more engaging and meaningful ways.

Timberlake gave the example that Taylor Swift may want to interact differently with her fans than The Roots, and the new Myspace will be able to accommodate that through a new set of tools.

New Timberlake music was brought up in the meeting as well (uh-oh!). The pop icon stayed on message and repeated what he has said before in interviews. "When I'm ready to talk about new music, I will say it in the biggest possible way." And that's that for now. 

Screen Shot 2012-11-17 at 9.03.49 AM
New Myspace Profile Page

It's important to note that this new Myspace is not a reinvention of the old product, but a brand-new social network that's built from the ground up. Yes, there are a few features that may be familiar to hardcore Myspace users, but there are some innovative new bells & whistles and a slick new interface that work radically different than any social network you're currently used to (read: Facebook).

The key ingredient of the new Myspace are "connections" (as opposed to "friends," "hearts," "follows" or "likes"). You can connect to people or to any type of content they post to track it. The homescreen is called "What's the latest" and works kinda, sorta but not really like the Facebook wall. Important difference: The screen scrolls left to right, and reads like a magazine in columns. Nice touch is that if you use a mouse to scroll down, the new Myspace screen will actually scroll to the right. The search is instant and will help you sort through the layers of functionality that had me a little dizzy at first.

Myspace's primary concern is to deliver a sexy desktop experience first. A mobile version of the site is still in very early phase of development.

Music is a key part of connecting people to places, photos and people they care about. People can create their own mixes that can mash up audio, video and pictures. Other music functionality includes a radio option, which will play songs based on tracks previously played using an algorithm similar to what Pandora uses. No details about subscription pricing to listen to music are available at this time.

The question on people's mind will be if a new Myspace can succeed. The real question should be if there's an appetite for new social networks that let you connect to friends, fans and artists in more meaningful ways.

The answer is clearly YES. Even though the shift is to more focused, mobile-optimized social networks (think Instagram, Twitter), Myspace is making a serious effort to create a new social platform that reignites their glory days by creating a new tool for artists to communicate with fans. 

The new Myspace is currently in beta but will be rolled out to more users in the months to come.

November 17, 2012 | Permalink