News Corp.’s Catch-22 With MySpace

Most media watchers agree on this: News Corp. has a big leg-up with its online properties, but that leg could easily become a knee to the groin.

On the one hand, the company’s powerful MySpace, IGN & Mobizzo holdings position it very well for the twin revolutions now underway in multichannel advertising and social/consumer-generated media. Indeed, we learn from AdAge today that the company has now revamped its media brokerage division to better sell its vast youth audience both on- and offline.

On the other hand, Murdoch & Co. are terrified of playing host to pedophiliacs, to underage libidos, to pirated content and to other inherently seedy elements of social media — not only because of the moral and legal implications, but because of what this nasty stuff might mean for sales. (See the Yahoo! Groups’ kiddie porn imbroglio of a year ago)

So the company is wisely and naturally ramping up its protector-of-children persona to do something about it, hiring a child safety czar and carrying Ad Council spots (WSJ, subscription req.) about online safety in conjunction with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The media coverage has focused on the effort to ease parents’ concerns about child predation, and that’s no doubt the biggest part of the company’s motive for being so aggressive. But make no mistake: nervous advertisers will be told of these efforts as well.

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