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In Other News…Van Natta Out as MySpace CEO




Question: How long does it take for a new CEO of a social media falling star to get his walking papers these days?

Answer: If you are Owen Van Natta of MySpace it takes just about 9 months.

Wow, I wonder if the time went quickly? It seems like just yesterday that the announcement of the former Facebook executive’s hiring was the start of a new era at MySpace that would make its climb back to the top of the social media heap. Instead the only news the site seems to generate is just how poorly it has performed and how much of waste of money and time it has been for News Corp. who acquired the company back in 2005 for $580 million.

The Wall Street Journal (that’s a News Corp. property that actually makes money and has some traction) reports

“While this may be a surprising turn of events for some of you, I am absolutely confident that this change is best for all parties involved and–most importantly–the MySpace business,” Jon Miller, News Corp.’s chief digital officer, said in an internal memo.

Mr. Miller, who oversees MySpace, hired Mr. Van Natta last April as part of a shakeup that saw MySpace founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson reassigned to different roles.

Mr. Van Natta, a former Facebook Inc. executive, was hired last year to turnaround MySpace, which has suffered from sagging advertising revenue and stagnant Web traffic.

“In talking to Owen about his priorities both personally and professionally going forward, we both agreed that it was best for him to step down at this time,” Mr. Miller said in a statement Wednesday.

Mr. Van Natta couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

By most accounts it appears that the infighting amongst the leadership at MySpace was pretty intense. Van Natta’s reputation as a tough negotiator may have been why he was hired but the rest of his reputation according to former co-workers was around his short fuse. Combine that kind of volatility with egos and the pressure to make something happen with a dying property and you have the makings of some serious fireworks.

So now that MySpace has once again put themselves in the headlines for more negative reasons is there any hope? Well, one sour note is the report from News Corp. executives that MySpace is falling short of minimum traffic levels that it has in place for a $900 million deal with Google. Not good.

But enter Rupert Murdoch who tried to spin his way through his thoughts on MySpace

“It’s not yet where we want it,” News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said about MySpace in an earnings call last week. He added that Web traffic had shown signs of stabilization. “We believe the stability points to progress the new management team has made to repositioning MySpace as the prime place where people share thoughts and ideas about music, entertainment and other popular content.”

No problem, Uncle Rupert, and the then the sugar plum fairies will come down and dance and all will be fine with the world. Things are not likely to get better any time soon. With all the talk of connecting social networks when is the last time that a list included MySpace?