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What If Google Had Bought MySpace (And What If They Do)?

AllThingsD’s Liz Gannes reports that MySpace is considering significant layoffs — perhaps up to 50 percent of its 1,000 person staff. We also know (and she repeats) that the site could be sold by News Corp. because of recent poor performance. (News Corp’s attitude implies that it had nothing to do with that decline.)

Reading this piece prompted me to think: what if Google had bought MySpace instead of News Corp? Google is currently struggling to define/execute a social strategy to better compete with the perceived rising threat of Facebook. Would owning MySpace have made things different now?

Recall that in July, 2006 News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch told Wired Magazine, “They [Google] could have bought MySpace three months before we did for half the price. They thought, ‘It’s nothing special. We can do that.’” Murdoch paid approximately $580 million, which means — if what he’s saying is true — that Google could have picked up the social site for a little more than $200 million. That seems like pocket change for Google now.

Would Google have been better able to manage the property to prevent its slide? Would it have integrated MySpace into other Google properties as it’s trying now to do with a “social layer”? Would Google have created “social search” much earlier? Might there have been an interesting local integration (see HotPot)? Or would MySpace still be where it is today if Google owned the company?

These would all seem to be “academic” questions because Google didn’t buy MySpace. To many observers that must now seem wise in retrospect though it appeared very foolish at the time of the sale.

In her article Gannes also discusses the possibility that a would-be buyer of MySpace is social games purveyor Zynga, where former MySpace CEO and Facebook COO Owen Van Natta now works. But what if Google emerges as a potential buyer too?

I suspect Google won’t make a run for MySpace for several reasons, partly because the brand and the site, despite its reinvention as an entertainment destination, are now “damaged” in the eyes of many. But what if Google did — wouldn’t that be crazy/ironic?

Postscript: As a quasi-related aside, what’s going on with Aardvark? The social site is still operating of course but it has been very quiet since Google bought the company in February for a mere $50 million. We haven’t seen any integration of its functionality anywhere on Google to my knowledge.

Postscript II: John Rosenfelder below makes an excellent comment about an issue I hadn’t considered:

MySpace might be a good buy for Google based on its existing relationships with rights holders in the music business.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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