Specific Media and Justin Timberlake buy News Corp's MySpace for $35m

Justin Timberlake plans to revitalise MySpace by using it to bring artists and fans together
Justin Timberlake plans to revitalise MySpace by using it to bring artists and fans together

Specific Media has partnered with Justin Timberlake to become the surprise new owners of music-led social networking site Myspace, in a $35m deal with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

A spokesman for Specific Media stressed that the Emmy and Grammy winning artist Timberlake will take an ownership stake and "play a major role in developing the creative direction and strategy for the company moving forward".

Today’s sale signals a momentously bad investment for News Corp, which bought Myspace in 2005 for $580m.

Once the darling of the social web, Murdoch famously predicted in the autumn of 2006 Myspace would take the market lead in online video from a then privately held YouTube "within the next 60 to 70 days".

He had been buoyed by unique visitors growing 155% to 55.8 million a month within its first year under News Corp, but ad revenues were proving to be more elusive.

The unprecedented global rise of Facebook, and Google’s acquisition of YouTube, both played a part in limiting the scope and reach of Myspace and in ensuring this vision was never fulfilled.

Following today’s deal, future plans for the site will be unveiled later in the summer but the focus will be on leveraging Myspace’s historic links to live music and performing artists.

There are also plans to turn Myspace into the "premiere digital destination" for original shows, and video content.

The deal takes Specific Media out of the realms of ad networks for which it is best known, and into the guise of a new-look digital media company that can "drive viewership for content owners, engagement for brands and relevance for consumers".

"There’s a need for a place where fans can go to interact with their favourite entertainers, listen to music, watch videos, share and discover cool stuff and just connect. MySpace has the potential to be that place," said Timberlake.

"Art is inspired by people and vice versa, so there’s a natural social component to entertainment. I’m excited to help revitalise MySpace by using its social media platform to bring artists and fans together in one community."

Specific Media has also announced plans to use the Myspace social networking infrastructure to deploy "socially-activated advertising campaigns", that enable brands to turn campaigns viral by allowing users to share their favourite ads with friends.

Brothers Tim, Chris and Russell Vanderhook founded Specific Media in 1999 to address the needs of the burgeoning online advertising space.

Since then, the company has developed into one of the world’s largest online advertising companies, with capabilities spanning addressable advertising, original programming and cross-media distribution.

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