MySpace Unveils Redesign as Facebook Catches Up

Starting next week, social network MySpace will begin rolling out a site-wide redesign intended to provide a more streamlined experience for both users and advertisers.

First among the changes will be a refurbished home page that provides simpler navigation options and easier access to community features such as chat, e-mail and search. MySpace is also making it easier for users to personalize their profile pages — new themes will be available with a single click, for example — and has revamped its search function to provide a cleaner interface and enhanced relevancy.

“We just tried to take a step back from the site and say, ‘What parts of this are designed the way they should be, and what is simply a result of five years of organic growth? Is this as good as it can be, or is it just the way it’s become?'” said Steve Pearman, SVP of product strategy for MySpace. “We ended up going back to the drawing board a lot and rethinking our core strategy.”

Part of that rethinking involved optimizing the site for advertisers. Pearman was tight lipped on specifics, but said the revamped site — particularly the redesigned front page — would provide opportunities for advertisers to engage more deeply with MySpace users.

Advertisers will now be able to stage “a more interactive takeover of that page,” he said. “It will be less about a banner experience and more about a way for users to engage in a way that will make them and the advertisers happy.”

Home page takeovers — or “branding wrappers” — have long been a common feature of MySpace advertising. Indeed, Pearman said a single advertiser had purchased the entire front-page inventory for the beginning stages of the rollout next week, but declined to name the company.

The redesign comes as rival social net Facebook’s monthly traffic pulls even with MySpace for the first time in its history. According to ComScore, both sites clocked 115 million unique monthly visitors in April. That number represents a huge leap for Facebook, which had only 40 million unique monthly visitors in April of last year. Meanwhile, MySpace, which is owned by News Corp., has remained largely flat during that time. In April of last year it clocked 110 million visitors, per ComScore.

Pearman said the changes were undertaken independent of pressure from Facebook, however, pointing out that the overall process has been going on for nearly a year.

“We have tested and retested this thing with our audience,” he said. “When we make a change on this scale, we don’t do it without a lot of testing.”

MySpace is also revamping its video player, reflecting the increasing popularity of online video. The new player, which uses Flash 9, and will also contain a time stamp, scrubber and greater sharing functionality.

Last month, News Corp announced that Fox Interactive Media, which includes MySpace, would fall 10 percent short of revenue projections for the fiscal year. Analysts at the time pointed to the poor performance of MySpace as a key factor in the shortfall.

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