The MySpace experiment

Parents and teens aren't the only ones dealing with MySpace's image. Advertisers and MySpace itself are too. Last week the big story was MySpace as a corporate citizen. This week, a snapshot of where MySpace is as a business too – somewhere between "the chaos that is comfortable to many MySpace residents and the neatness that appeals to consumer product companies [advertisers]," as the New York Times put it. Just as in the corporate citizenship space, where MySpace has to strike a balance between keeping youth safe and sending them all to another site in the US or overseas without the safety precautions MySpace does have in place, so it juggles the "chaos" of customization that users love and advertisers hate (or that scares advertisers seeking association with a squeaky clean or at least predictable ad environment). The story illustrates the multidisciplinary challenge of a medium largely produced by its users. By multiple "disciplines," I mean parenting, marketing, copyright law, law enforcement, education, constitutional law, and so on. Advertisers and parents used to be able to count on media that the media companies, the content producers – not the consumers – controlled. Now the medium for advertisers' messages and parents' young content producers and socializers is a mix, some of it "professional content" owned and controlled (somewhat) by the media companies but most of it owned and produced by its own consumers (even the professional content gets sliced, diced, mixed, and mashed up by the Web's young producers). And the experiment grows, as MySpace moves from being a social site and a record label to being an incubator for Web startups. For details, check out this latest snapshot of a very complex picture at the Times.

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