MySpace CEO Van Natta Is Out After Just 10 Months
(News & Analysis) – MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta is being forced to step down effectively immediately after just 10 months as the helm of the struggling social networker. Van Natta will be replaced by newly-elevated co-Presidents Mike Jones and Jason Hirschhorn, who will each report to Jon Miller, Chairman and CEO of Digital Media for parent News Corporation.
In many ways Miller and News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch set this train in motion when they hired all three executives in April of 2009. Van Natta, the former COO of Facebook became CEO, Mike Jones, the founder and
CEO of Userplane (acquired by AOL) was hired as COO and Jason Hirschhorn, the former
president of SlingMedia, was brought in to be Chief Product Office. MySpace suddenly had three leaders with strong operations backgrounds and experience running their own shops.
Put all three men inside a struggling division overseen by the strong willed Miller who works for Rupert Murdoch, a man whose publicaly skeptical of the web; and its hard to imagine that they would all be left standing for long. Van Natta was the most thoughtful and measured of the trio in an environment that does not favor such qualities making his eventual departure an almost certainty.
What's next for MySpace?
In a joint statement, Jones and Hirschhorn towed the corporate line: “We
joined MySpace last April with very a specific set of goals in mind,
and are anxious to continue working together to make those goals a
reality. This business is now pointed in the right direction, and we
have a great team of employees that will continue to push MySpace
closer to its potential as the place where people go to be discovered
and to discover great content.”
But MySpace has not articulated a clear vision of its future; and while the user numbers have stopped eroding, Facebook and Twitter continue to soar. In fact, its hard to find a user who prefers MySpace for anything other than a quick method of checking out new music; and that's hardly a model for success.
"The last thing MySpace needs is any sign of management instability
whatsoever," says eMarketer's Debra Aho Williamson. "For months now we've heard about the company's
plan to refocus on its historic roots in music and entertainment. But
the turnaround has been painfully slow, and this shakeup will only
reinforce the perception that MySpace can't be fixed."
MySpace Music's Courtney Holt remains in control of his corner of the enterprise; and seems determine to make things more user friendly for both fans and artists. But how much can he do own his own if the service in which he's housed is rudderless? Probably not much. If MySpace had made Holt CEO it would have sent a clear message. But for now, at least MySpace is only sending out distress signals.