Can Justin Timberlake save MySpace?

Wow, just last week I blogged about the seemingly eminent demise of MySpace and then along comes Justin Timberlake.

So how did Justin Timberlake, who in last year’s movie “The Social Network” portrayed a pivotal figure in the history of Facebook’s phenomenal growth wind up owning part of rival social network Myspace?

It’s all about connections.

Nicole Winnaman, president and founder of entertainment branding firm Winnaman & Associates, learned a little more than two weeks ago that Irvine-based advertising network Specific Media was in talks to acquire Myspace from News corp. The executive, who has paired musicians like Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, and Pink with well-known consumer brands, approached Timberlake’s manager with a proposal to take a stake in the struggling Myspace as part of the new owner’s attempt to bring sexy back to the once-dominant social network.

Last Friday, even as Specific Media was hammering out deal points with News Corp. over its $35-million acquisition of Myspace, the digital media company’s founders — brothers Tim and Chris Vanderhook — met with Winnaman and Timberlake’s manager at the futuristic Encounter Restaurant at LAX to talk about a potential partnership. Timberlake joined the meeting by phone.

On Monday, the Vanderhooks boarded a flight to New York to meet Timberlake in person the following day. By Tuesday night, lawyers for Timberlake and Specific Media were racing to close the partnership deal in time for Wednesday’s acquisition announcement.

“I don’t think anyone slept for 72 hours,” Tim Vanderhook recalled.

Timberlake’s manager, Johnny Wright, said his client — whose career spans many forms of media, including music, film and television — recognizes the power of social media in shaping pop culture. In “The Social Network,” Timberlake portrayed Sean Parker, an Internet entrepreneur who helped Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zukerberg secure financing for his fledgling website.

In the case of Myspace, Timberlake made his own undisclosed financial investment, according to Wright.

Timberlake declined to be interviewed for this story, but Wright insisted: “This is not a vanity ownership. He wants to make it relevant in a big way.”

Neither Timberlake’s team nor Specific Media would offer any particular plans for revitalizing Myspace. But Vanderhook said he and his brothers understand digital advertising and how to move traffic on the Internet. He said he hopes Timberlake will be able to give the flagging site renewed social relevance.

“Justin is a tremendously bright guy who is really passionate about the opportunity for artists to build a community with fans,” Vanderhook said. “He’s excited about the platform and the ability to interact with his fans. He’s well aware of the all the unique opportunities that digital media affords someone like him. He will use the platform himself and show other artists how to use it”

Google+, the next Facebook?

You have all heard the news that Google is once again entering the social space, this time with an offering called Google+. It’s not the first time. Google’s Orkut social network is a great success — in Brazil. Google Buzz bombed. There was the collaborative system Wave … we waved goodbye to that. You can almost taste the urgency — Facebook is taking over people’s time online and a lot of ad dollars and this is a threat to Google.

But this is the first social launch since Larry Page took over as CEO and declared that social was a major battleground.

Google+ is based around the idea of circles. A circle is a group of friends. Circles can upload and share content, update each other, even participate in a little group texting.

Google is, of course, starting from the relationships it has. Specifically, Google IDs and knowledge that comes from Gmail. It seems obvious that Google Groups will be part of this as well.

Google has finally figured out that an all-out frontal assault on Facebook will always fail. Facebook just has too much of an embedded user base. As Charlene Li has pointed out, Google+ attempts to fix a problem that many have with Facebook — they accumulate 800 friends and then realize they don’t want to share everything with everyone. In other words, it fixes one of the big privacy problems.
But if people were really all that upset with the privacy problem they would have left already. (Recent reports of “Facebook Fatigue” notwithstanding, there is no mass exodus happening.) People are putting up with it. It’s like a bad habit — you know it’s a problem, but inertia keeps you from leaving.

What will happen? Facebook’s traffic will not suffer. People will keep using Facebook. But when you have a tight little group, you may find Google+ to be just right for sharing with that group. So I think Google+ will catch on with lots of groups — Boy Scout troops, book groups, college cliques, that kind of thing. It may build a nice niche out of these groups, and extend the value of Google Groups in general. It will get people to spend more time on Google.

But it won’t replace or even dent Facebook any time soon.

What does this mean for marketers? First, you should keep a close eye on this, and consider advertising on it to the groups that matter to you. If Google+ makes it easy for companies to create brand groups, that’s worth a look.

Alexandra Cousteau

I am trying to get more active in promoting a clean environment…I was quite active in Japan in 2008 I created a Global Summit for Ecology. This year I will begin with a series of fund raising speaker events. For my first project I would love to bring Alexandra Cousteau here to speak about leveraging emerging technologies to assure we have clean water for generations to come.

National Geographic Emerging Explorer Alexandra Cousteau is part of one of the world’s most famous environmental dynasties. She is grand-daughter of legend Jacques-Yves Cousteau who first started teaching her to dive at the age of seven. She left on her first expedition with her father Philippe and mother Jan to Easter Island, Chile when she was just 4 months old.
Today, she takes that rich legacy of environmental advocacy, exploration and storytelling and moves it forward with Blue Legacy, a Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit that she founded in 2008 to leverage new and emerging technologies to connect mainstream audiences with their local watersheds and their water planet.

As the visionary behind Blue Legacy’s projects, she advocates the critical importance of managing our water resources sustainably in order to preserve a healthy planet. Her global initiatives seek to inspire and empower individuals to protect not only the ocean and its inhabitants, but also the human communities that rely on the purity of freshwater resources. 

As the third-generation of Cousteaus to explore with the National Geographic Society, Alexandra believes that some of the most important exploring we can undertake in the 21st century will take place in our imaginations as we innovate and re-imagine solutions to the pressing environmental issues that confront and define our species today.

Earlier this year, Alexandra served as the Global Water Advisor and spokesperson for the global Live Earth 2010 Run for Water—a project that teams her public advocacy on environmental issues with actress Jessica Biel, musician Pete Wentz and many more in a worldwide event on water.

In early 2009, Alexandra joined the Discovery Channel line-up, co-hosting “Blue August” with her brother Philippe, Jr. and serving as a Chief Correspondent on Water Issues for Discovery’s “Planet Green”.

In 2008, she was honored as a National Geographic “Emerging Explorer”—an elite group of eleven visionary young trailblazers from around the world who push the boundaries of discovery, adventure, and global problem solving. She has been honored as an “Earth Trustee” by the UN and regularly delivers testimony on critical policy issues before the U.S. Congress. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Global Water Challenge, Mother Nature Network, and EarthEcho; and the steering committee of The Shark Alliance.

Alexandraʼs work regularly earns global recognition and her 2009 Expedition: Blue Planet project was named a finalist in two categories at the prestigious Jackson Hole Environmental Film Festival.