The Rupert Murdoch-owned social networking phenomenon MySpace.com is planning to establish an operation in Dublin that may include a network operations centre (NOC), siliconrepublic.com has learned.
However, MySpace.com sales and marketing director James Fabricant, who was in Dublin yesterday attending a conference organised by IBEC’s Audiovisual Federation and Enterprise Ireland, said he could not comment on such plans.
“We do have plans to launch soon in Ireland. I can’t give specifics but we are working hard to find exactly what it is that our Irish users want and what’s going to be most relevant.”
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation acquired MySpace in 2005 for US$580m.
Fabricant, who was one of MySpace.com’s first European hires three years ago, says that globally MySpace has 168 million registered members and is growing at a rate of 350,000 a day. “That equates to a million people every three days. We’re finding internationally that the bigger we get the faster we grow, it’s exponential.”
The MySpace site, which is understood to be the fifth most visited website on the planet, is a user-generated collection of user profiles, websites, friends and music and has become an important launch pad for new acts.
In Fabricant’s words it is: “a next-generation portal based on a social network. It’s a place where people live their lives online and where they can express themselves, connect with like-minded people and discover popular culture”.
In Ireland the MySpace.com community currently stands at around 300,000 users.
Asked about the kind of threat Web 2.0 sites like MySpace pose to such traditional media as TV, radio and newspapers, Fabricant said: “We see ourselves as absolutely complimentary to traditional media. We actually see ourselves as a fantastic entertainment and distribution mechanism for traditional media.
“In this day and age you have to put your content where the people are and MySpace, because it is a huge online community where millions of conversations are going on every day, offers a much richer experience than you can through a traditional broadcast model.”
Fabricant added that MySpace’s business model is based on advertising revenue. “We’ve built a very robust business and it is growing every day. It is continually evolving and we are currently working on lots of new features, about which I can’t be specific, except to say that we actually listen to users and will build out a feature-set that empowers them.
“Fundamentally the success of MySpace comes from the fact that the opinions and actions of our users really do drive the development of the site,” Fabricant continued.
In terms of the potential to bring MySpace to the mobile arena, Fabricant pointed to a recent deal with Vodafone where the operator will put MySpace on its mobiles exclusively for three months before it is opened to other operators. “We will have both a WAP site and a Java application you can download,” Fabricant added.
Audiovisual Federation director Tommy McCabe said new products from players like MySpace along with advances by established media players like the BBC will dramatically alter the business environment for Irish television and telecoms companies.
“The range of new technology platforms coming to the Irish market will give consumers unprecedented access to a vast array of programming,” McCabe said. “We will soon see an era where we are inundated with content; watching the news on your mobile while browsing sports highlights via broadband, or while using your digital TV to vote on your favourite reality TV show.
Pointing to the fact that the mobile global market has an estimated revenue of US$1 trillion, McCabe said the mobile phone has become the fourth screen after the silver screen, TV and the PC.
Jonathan Kingsbury, head of external supply for the BBC, outlined some new areas being examined in the internet space: “iPlayer is a potential new service we are developing. It will allow those who have missed a show on TV to catch it online up to seven days later, for free.”
The Irish content and audiovisual sector needs to continue to embrace new international opportunities, said Michael Cantwell, manager of Enterprise Ireland’s digital media group. “It is also essential that Irish content companies, both film and television, keep apace with the many emerging technologies that are drivers of international success in the industry.”
By John Kennedy