Jury out as MySpace mulls print title

Few can dispute that MySpace.com has become a cultural phenomenon. In just a few short years, the social network has become a networking place for millions of people around the world. Given that, it wasn't a surprise when marketers discovered the site as a way to reach that all-important 18-34 demographic.

Few can dispute that MySpace.com has become a cultural phenomenon. In just a few short years, the social network has become a networking place for millions of people around the world. Given that, it wasn't a surprise when marketers discovered the site as a way to reach that all-important 18-34 demographic.

These days, it is not uncommon for television shows and movies to have their own MySpace pages. Even celebrities have used their own MySpace pages to release statements about everything from new projects to impending divorces.

The PR industry has gotten into the game as well, using MySpace for the clients that can invade the network in the most unobtrusive and non-marketer way.

In the beginning, part of MySpace's appeal was that it was an underground, undiscovered, and unpretentious network of people from all around the world and all walks of life. News Corp's purchase of the site last summer for $580 million has not entirely diminished that. But it certainly ushered in an era of partnerships and expansion, the most recent being news that MySpace is considering plans to launch a print magazine in partnership with Nylon. As first reported by Ad Age, the editorial of the magazine would most likely concentrate on certain MySpace members and their interests.

Considering that many print publications geared toward the younger demographic - Teen People and Elle Girl being the most recent - have abandoned the print platform completely for a Web-only existence, MySpace's plan to extend its brand into print is certainly bold.

"I can understand from a business perspective the desire to get into another channel and try to connect more people because its business is all about making connections," says Jeff Swystun, global director at Interbrand. However, he adds, the proposition could have implications for the brand's overall image.

"MySpace is still cool right now because of the way the content is developed by members," he says. "Who's going to be making the editorial decisions on the magazine? It's not going to be members, so it kind of competes with the whole idea of what MySpace was to begin with. From a pure business standpoint, I don't know if it makes sense."

But John Bell, MD in Ogilvy PR Worldwide's 360o Digital Influence practice, believes there could be a different audience for a MySpace magazine.

"If they create something, it'll just be something different and they'll be leveraging the MySpace name," he says. "If it works at all it's going to be because it's a good magazine and has very little to do with MySpace."

Still, Swystun notes that a successful brand extension will mean that MySpace will have to reach out to its core audience to attract readers for the magazine.

"The place where you originally have success with the brand [is the place where] you must solicit your customers," he says. "They have to give you permission to extend the brand into those areas.

"It really needs to protect the attributes, values, and qualities of the MySpace brand to do this successfully," he adds. "It has to be hip, it has to be highly accessible, the content has to be interesting, and the presentation has to be incredibly creative."

But with such brand extensions - including a news service which is also in development - does MySpace run the risk of alienating the audience that made it a success to begin with?

"When [its users] see a magazine on the rack, will they care? I don't think they will, quite frankly," Bell says, adding that a MySpace television show is probably not far behind. "I think it has got miles to go before it spoils the brand for the core users."

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