By  on November 15, 2006

MySpace isn't just for teenagers — its largest audience is adults over 35 years old and 80 percent of the world's top 100 brands are already delivering their messages via the social networking Web site.

Since News Corp. purchased the site last year for approximately $600 million, it has grown from 17 million unique users to 80 million, said Ross Levinsohn, president of Fox Interactive Media. Even News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch has a profile — actually, he has one real profile and approximately 70 fake ones, Levinsohn said.

He added that 230,000 new people join MySpace every day, equivalent to the population of Buffalo, N.Y. The average user looks at 650 pages per month and there were 35 billion page views last month, a number that is second only to Yahoo.

MySpace has become a creative outlet for people. "It is built around the principles of friendship," Levinsohn said. "It's about self-expression, discovery and interaction."

The age group that it is best known for, teenagers, makes up approximately 33 percent of its audience. "We believe that we are nearing market saturation in this market," Levinsohn said. And college students make up about 20 percent of the audience. Levinsohn joked the site is popular with teenagers due to "helicopter parents," or parents who hover over their children.

To state the obvious, it's a Web site ripe for advertising and brand awareness, and H&M, Victoria's Secret and the designers behind Heatherette have already jumped on the bandwagon. In less than a year, H&M has added more than 53,000 friends to its MySpace page, which features celebrity photos, weekly sweepstakes (to keep their "friends" coming back) and its clothing catalogue.

Victoria's Secret has more than 100,000 friends on its site. Visitors can peruse downloadable content, its online catalogue and soon, the company will introduce an e-commerce function. Heatherette partnered with Macy's to host an "It" girl contest on its MySpace page, which has brought the designer brand 4,000 friends that it can now directly market to. Meanwhile, designer Daniel Barbalho built a profile for his Atlanta-based Esperanza Clothing Co., and soon after, "MTV Spring Break," Lucky magazine and the publicist of Outkast came calling.In addition, "Project Runway" has one of the most successful pages of its genre, with more than 72,000 friends. It runs contests and keeps the site current to encourage more page views. Meanwhile, on the profile of "America's Next Top Model," visitors can view behind-the-scenes video and meet the contestants and judges.

"These are all examples of how a brand can connect," Levinsohn said. "It's not advertising. It's immersive. It's talking with consumers, not at them. It's one of the secrets of social networking and many in the fashion arena are taking advantage."

More than 60,000 fashion and style groups have emerged on MySpace during the past two years and each group has between 10 and 100 people. In the future, Levinsohn said the site will offer original editorial content and a fashion channel will be launched sometime during the next quarter.

Emerging musicians also dominate the site. "We offer the best promotional platform for music on the Internet today," he said. "We have more than three million bands."

Beginning this month, bands can sell music directly to consumers and they can choose the price, which is different from iTunes or Napster. Every major record label has broken artists on MySpace and 10 of the last number-one songs were launched with campaigns on the site. On the TV side, MySpace offers Fox television shows in almost high-definition quality. For example, "The OC" recently aired its first episode on the site, before broadcasting it on TV, to create more of a buzz.

With its dominance on the Web, Levinsohn said MySpace is focusing on safety. "Our number-one objective is to make our site and the Internet as a whole safer," he said. The company is working with government interest groups and has produced a series of spots with celebrities, such as Kiefer Sutherland, for its online safety campaign.

MySpace has pursued an aggressive global strategy, reaching out to countries such as the U.K., France, Germany and Australia. MySpace is now considering ways to refine the brand. In this vein, the company has partnered with Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett, the man behind "Survivor," for a television show on Fox called "On the Lot." The show will look for the next Steven Spielberg and aspiring filmmakers will be able to submit their films via MySpace.One of the ways the site makes money is by creating partnerships. Last summer, MySpace linked with another Fox project, the movie "X-Men The Last Stand," to create a profile. Within three weeks, the page received approximately 3 million friends. For businesses interested in advertising on MySpace, Levinsohn emphasized that it's important to understand the site and what it is all about.

"Ads are controlled and they are professionally produced," he said. "We've seen our ad revenue double, quarter to quarter, over the last eight quarters."

So far, the site hasn't changed its ad format and there are no plans to do so in the future. Fox Interactive has 40 sites and 230 people work at MySpace.

Levinsohn admitted that he's not entirely sure what the future holds for MySpace, but added that online businesses will continue to flourish for years to come. "Creative people and risk-takers are going to win," he said.

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