News Corp. to auction off MySpace on eBay

Don't laugh, it actually might come down to that

OK, maybe I'm jumping the gun with the eBay thing, but at this point News Corp. has to put everything on the table because Myspace is sinking faster than Sarah Palin's presidential prospects.

(Also see: News Corp. so confident about MySpace comeback that they're trying to dump it)

It's hardly a bulletin that Rupert Murdoch's company is trying to unload the money-losing dog that is Myspace. Just three weeks ago Myspace CEO Mike Jones told employees -- well, the 53 percent who just survived a massive round of layoffs -- that News Corp. "is exploring a sale, merger or spinoff of the social-media website."

Which is like saying a person trapped in a burning building is "exploring" ways to get out.

On Wednesday, News Corp. President and COO Chase Carey strengthened the company's bargaining position in a conference call with analysts by begging someone, anyone, to buy Myspace. Maybe he didn't put it quite that way, but that clearly was the message.

“With a new structure in place, now is the right time to consider strategic options for this business,” Carey said. “The new Myspace has been very well-received by the market and we have some very encouraging metrics. But the plan to allow Myspace to reach its full potential may be best achieved under a new owner.”

Actually, two years ago would have been the "right time," before it became painfully clear that Facebook was the new king of online social networking and that Myspace was on a one-way trip to irrelevance. Predicting the future is a tough business, no doubt, but that's what guys like Chase Carey get paid the big bucks to do. (Even, apparently, when they're wrong.)

News Corp. bought Myspace for $580 million in 2005, when it was still the No. 1 social networking site in the world. It was eclipsed by Facebook in late 2008 and has been shedding users, money and employees (via layoffs) ever since. Last fall Myspace launched a redesign intended to transform the site from an also-ran social networking platform to an entertainment sharing site for young users.

That's the "new Myspace" Carey alluded to in the statement above. You know, the one that "has been very well-received by the market" and for which there are "encouraging metrics." I'm not sure how a 52 percent drop in page views over the past three months qualifies as "encouraging." Maybe News Corp. had expected a 70 percent drop.

Getting back to Myspace's future, Carey told paidcontent.org that "interest to date has ranged from A to Z — from industry players, financial players, foreign to domestic."

So now they're cold-calling from the phone book! And why not? As I said before, everything should be on the table.

News Corp., if you do decide to go the eBay route, two words of advice: No reserve.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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