Technology

The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: MySpace

U.S. advertising on social networks surges 20% to $1.68 billion, half of it on Facebook

Graf Just after Facebook hit 500 million users last month, some analysts increased their 2010 forecasts for spending on social media advertising.

U.S. advertising is expected to increase 20% over last year to $1.68 billion, up from December's forecast of $1.3 billion, according to a study by digital research group EMarketer.

"That's primarily due to the strong performance of Facebook and somewhat due to the fact that we started adding Twitter to our analysis," said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst.

The study, conducted every six months, also measures sites such as MySpace, LinkedIn and Classmates.com as well as popular sites in China, Japan and Russia for worldwide figures.

Half of that $1.68 billion spent by U.S. advertisers will go to Facebook, according to the study. By 2011, advertisers will spend $1.06 billion on the San Francisco company -- a 112% increase from 2009.

Worldwide, overall social media ad spending is leveling off -- except for on Facebook. Advertisers around the globe will pour an estimated $1.76 billion on the site in 2011, which is a 165% increase from 2009,  according to the study.

This means marketers recognize this is an easy way to reach consumers where they spend a lot of their time, Williamson said.

"Facebook has been one of the leaders in ways to advertise in social media," she said. "It's become one of the go-to places for marketers."

That's largely because of Facebook's self-serve advertising system -- EMarketer estimated that it accounts for at least half of the company's revenue, an increase from previous estimates. 

"We underestimated how big that success was," Williamson said. "I think it was a surprise for Facebook as well."

The system allows marketers to create and post ads without having to go through a salesperson, which is unique to social media sites, Williamson said. Once an ad is created, users also have the option to "like" or "become a fan" of an ad, which Facebook then posts as suggestions to mutual friends.

But although marketing dollars are increasing in the millions, Williamson said Facebook is far too big for users to worry about being bombarded with ads.

"There's plenty of opportunity and plenty of places to put advertising," she said. "It's been very minimalistic,  and that's on purpose."

Advertising on MySpace, which is refocusing on its roots in being a social media site for entertainment and music for youth, is on the decline. U.S. marketers will spend $323 million on the site, down from $445 million in 2009, EMarketer said. By 2011, U.S. and worldwide advertising on MySpace is estimated to decline about 38% from 2009 figures.

"It's a smaller targeted audience," Williamson said. "There are fewer advertisers who want to reach a youth market."

-- Kristena Hansen

Charts: U.S. advertising spending on social networking sites, by venue, for 2009 compared with 2010 forecast. Credit: EMarketer

Google acquires social games and apps maker Slide

Slide-super-poke-pets Google made another play for the social networking space Friday with its acquisition of Slide, which makes games, applications and widgets for websites such as Facebook and MySpace.

The San Francisco developer provides free apps that Facebook users can install on their profiles in order to play simple games with friends or to arrange photo slide shows.

Slide's SuperPoke application and its animal-centric variations, for example, are a family of popular social games with which players can virtually hug friends or raise a pet pig. A feature similar to Slide's Top Friends was eventually implemented by Facebook into every profile, allowing users to rank online buddies.

Google didn't immediately return a request for comment on the financial details of the deal, but a report on the website TechCrunch says Google has agreed to pay $182 million plus $46 million in employee bonuses. Google's stock fell 1.7% on Friday, exceeding the 0.4% drop of the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index.

Faced with the skyrocketing popularity of Facebook, Google has been searching for ways to make products that are more fun and collaborative.

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Access to social networks from mobile phones soars

comScoreFacebooksocial networksTwitter

Looking for even more proof that social networks are extremely popular?

Market-research firm comScore reported on Wednesday that users are becoming increasingly likely to access social networks from mobile phones.Fb share

comScore found that 30.8% of all smart-phone owners accessed a social network from their mobile browser in January, up from 22.5% in January 2009. The company also said that 11.1% of all mobile phones in the U.S. were used to access social networks during the month.

Facebook and Twitter enjoyed the most traffic from mobile phones. comScore said that mobile access to Facebook grew by 112% over the last year. A whopping 25 million people checked their Facebook profile from a mobile browser in January alone. 

Although just over 1 million people accessed Twitter from a mobile phone in January 2009, that number skyrocketed by 347% over the last year with more than 4 million people accessing the social network in January 2010.

MySpace was the only major social network to lose users over the last year. In January 2009, the social network attracted more than 12 million mobile users. In January 2010, that number fell to 11.4 million, representing a 7% decline year-over-year.

As fascinating as comScore's numbers are, the company said that it only examined users who accessed social networks from a mobile browser, which means the more than 6 million people who access social networks exclusively from mobile applications were left out of the study.

In other words, more people than ever are accessing social networks from mobile phones. And so far, Twitter and Facebook probably couldn't be happier about it.

--Don Reisinger

twitter.com/donreisinger

Image: comScore findings on mobile social network access. Credit: comScore

Microsoft readies Outlook for social battle

FacebookMicrosoftMySpaceOutlook

Microsoft announced Wednesday that Outlook users will now be able to connect their LinkedIn accounts to their Inbox after downloading the new LinkedIn for Outlook add-on.Fb outlook

Outlook users will be able to view colleague status updates, sync LinkedIn contact information with Outlook contacts, and add new connections from within their Inbox.

Microsoft also announced that later this year, Facebook and MySpace integration will be coming to Outlook. Users will be able to see status updates, view photos, and add friends to either social network from the e-mail platform. Unfortunately, the company didn't announce Twitter integration.

Microsoft's decision to add MySpace and Facebook to Outlook could be a reaction to Google Buzz, the online company's new social network that it recently integrated into Gmail, a major Web-based Outlook competitor. Aside from basic social-networking features, Buzz also includes Twitter support.

-- Don Reisinger

twitter.com/donreisinger

Image: Facebook running on Outlook. Credit: Microsoft

MySpace updates will appear in Google real-time search results

MySpace has just been added to Google’s real-time search results. It joins the ranks of Twitter, Yahoo Answers and others.

That means that any publicly available status updates and other information can now pop up in Google search results.

Google launched its real-time search feature in December. Facebook updates have not yet rolled out.

MySpace is taking bold steps like these to open up its data and regain its competitive edge. It hopes to borrow some of Twitter's success by encouraging developers to write sophisticated applications.

MySpace has been struggling recently to retain its audience and influence. Last week Chief Executive Owen Van Natta left after less than a year in the top job.

Here’s a blog post from Co-President Mike Jones.

-- Jessica Guynn

TheSixtyOne redesign positions it as the anti-MySpace music site

Thesixtyone Indie music portal TheSixtyOne launched a drastically redesigned website over the weekend. Loyal users were less than enthused, but something tells us they'll get over it. Just take a look. The site is beautiful.

Out are the lists of songs, the blocks of text and the excessive number of buttons. In its place is a large centerpiece band photo with a few interactive buttons in the corners and pop-up song descriptions and relevant pictures overlaid on top.

The ultra-simple design positions TheSixtyOne as the anti-MySpace. Both sites grew thanks to participation by unsigned and unknown bands looking to attract exposure.

While MySpace has tacked on an ever-growing list of features and overcomplicated layouts, TheSixtyOne strips out the junk and puts what's important at the forefront -- the song that's currently playing.

TheSixtyOne isn't shy about distancing itself from MySpace. On its community etiquette page, the first bullet point under "please don't" reads: "Spam. There's a great site for writing the same message over and over, 'thanks for the add,' and chain letters. It's called MySpace."

-- Mark Milian
twitter.com/markmilian

Photo: This is what the site looks like if you have a tiny browser window. Courtesy of TheSixtyOne

More on Google music search

Google music search, OneBox, YouTube, Lala, MySpace Music, iLike After I wrote about Google's new music search feature last week, several readers pointed out that Google already offered searchers an easy way to stream songs: YouTube. Clips from YouTube have been featured prominently among the search results on Google and Yahoo for some time. If Lala, MySpace Music and Google's other partners in the new search feature are going to see much benefit, they'll have to offer a more compelling experience at the top of the search results than YouTube does nearby.

With that in mind, Google is rolling out the first upgrade to music search today: semi-exclusive content. I say "semi" because the content is actually being made available by Lala and MySpace and can be found by going to those sites directly. Anyway, the booty includes new material and free MP3s available for a limited time only. Among the artists contributing MP3s are Phoenix, Tim McGraw and Mos Def; exclusive tracks will be available from Snoop Dogg, Kings of Leon, Lady Gaga and Linkin Park. It's not clear whether this will be a regular feature or just a gimmick to get people to try out the new search feature. But if artists and labels really want to draw people into the experiences provided by services such as Lala and MySpace Music, they'll need to keep the freebies and/or extra features coming. Otherwise, what's to keep Google users from clicking on the links from YouTube in lieu of the ones at the top of the page?

-- Jon Healey

Healey writes editorials for The Times' Opinion Manufacturing Division. Follow him on Twitter: @jcahealey

Google launches music search with Lala, Pandora, Rhapsody, imeem and MySpace

Google this afternoon began rolling out its widely rumored music feature, which lets users search for and listen to entire songs for free.

The search engine banded together with several music service sites that are responsible for streaming the songs on Google's search results pages. Searching for Coldplay, for example, will yield the band's album cover art, alongside four popular songs that users can play once for free. Once a song has been played by a user, they will only be able to hear a 30-second sample of tune. (The feature is being gradually rolled out over the next 24 hours, so some folks may not see the feature until tomorrow.)

Google Music LaLa Google itself isn't paying record companies for the rights to play millions of songs on its search page; its partners are. Those include Lala, Pandora, imeem, MySpace Music and Rhapsody, a subscription service from Real Networks. All have licensing agreements with record labels to stream or sample millions of songs online.

The Mountain View, Calif., search company said it's not interested in competing with digital music retailers such as Amazon and Apple's iTunes.

"We're not in the music business per se," said R.J. Pittman, Google's director of product for the music search project. "We don't license the music nor sell the music directly on Google. We are merely a music search feature."

But in steering millions of Internet users to these sites, Google is indirectly boosting their ability to compete with iTunes, which was responsible for 69% of U.S. digital music sales in the first six months of this year, and 35% of all music sales, including physical albums, according to market research firm NPD Group Inc. Amazon, the second-largest player, accounted for 9% of digital music sales and 10% of overall music sales.

Google says it's only interested in helping people find and discover music. Whether it can help revitalize the music industry is another question that Times editorial writer Jon Healey addresses here.

Millions of people already use Google to ...

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Twitter said to be near a deal for $100 million in venture funding

Twitcash

Twitter may be close to locking up a deal for $100 million in new venture funding, a sum that would nearly triple the total venture capital poured into the 3-year-old messaging start-up.

The new investment round, which would include investment firm T. Rowe Price and Insight Venture Partners, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, would value Twitter at close to $1 billion. 

Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Among the most familiar refrains in the social media business is that companies do best to build value and audiences before they focus too heavily on generating revenue. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone reinforced the features-first, money-later approach this week when he said "it'll be awhile" before users see any advertising on Twitter.

Twitter has also said that it will support what it calls "commercial accounts" for businesses, which would offer paying customers more tools for analyzing their Twitter traffic. That feature may arrive by the end of the year.

Twitter's last round of funding came in mid-February, when it collected $35 million from the likes of Institutional Venture Partners and Benchmark Capital. Spark Capital and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos's Bezos Expeditions participated in the round before that

In recent days, Twitter has been adding to the slate of sites and services that are allowing users to tweet, including MySpace and AOL's Lifestream platform.

-- David Sarno

TechCrunch50: MySpace looks for friends

Myspace-primary_logo-blue_clean It's the sad fact of life for MySpace, a sponsor of this week's TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco: Silicon Valley loves Facebook and Twitter. MySpace? Not so much.

Yet that doesn't stop Rupert Murdoch's favorite social network from trying. Chad Russell, who runs MySpace's OpenSocial team, is at the conference, trying to persuade developers to create apps for the one-time social networking leader. MySpace, he points out, still has 170 million users -- dwarfed by Facebook's 250 million, but still a significant population.

"It's almost like we're back to square one," Russell said. "We're pitching again, like we were a few years ago."

"This is a Facebook crowd," he said, noting that Facebook and Twitter get a lot of positive coverage on the TechCrunch website, which covers Silicon Valley and is hosting the conference. "They take their leanings from on high."

OpenSocial, which Russell works on, is an effort launched by Google two years ago to get developers to build applications that can run across a number of social networks, including MySpace, LinkedIn and Google's Orkut. Facebook has its own system and has not signed on to OpenSocial. "They're anti-open standards," Russell said. "All of Facebook has closed protocols."

As for MySpace's newfound role as underdog and Web 2.0 whipping boy, Russell said, "Some of it we deserve. Some of it we don't."

-- Dan Fost

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