News Corp. unloads MySpace

MySpace, which dominated the social-networking market in the mid-2000s before Facebook eclipsed it, has been sold by its parent company News Corp. to digital media company Specific Media, the companies announced on Wednesday.

As part of the agreement, News Corp. will buy a minority stake in Specific Media. Although the financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are reporting that the price tag was between $30 million and $40 million.

That price range represents a small fraction of the $580 million News Corp. paid for MySpace in 2005, when the site ruled the emerging social-networking market.

However, Facebook came on strong in the following years and surpassed MySpace's popularity by 2008 with a cleaner, more elegant interface, a user culture in which most people used their real names, finer privacy controls and a robust platform and community for developers to build third-party applications.

MySpace went through several restructurings, focus changes, management shakeups and rounds of layoffs, but News Corp. couldn't reverse its downward spiral.

As recently as October 2009, Jonathan Miller, who oversees News Corp.'s Internet businesses, pledged that MySpace would recover under the new leadership of former Facebook executive Owen Van Natta and with a focus on music and entertainment. That plan didn't succeed and Van Natta soon left before completing a year at MySpace's helm. MySpace's current CEO is Mike Jones, a former AOL executive.

Founded in 1999 and based in Irvine, California, Specific Media offers online advertising services, such as targeting and measurement, to large brand advertisers through a platform that combines various distribution methods and ad formats.

It's not clear whether Specific Media intends to maintain MySpace as a social-networking site, and if not, what will happen to the user accounts and content members have stored in the site.

Neither News Corp. nor Specific Media immediately responded to requests for comment.

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