The News Corporation, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, had been trying since last winter to rid itself of the unprofitable unit, which was a casualty of changing tastes and may be a cautionary tale for social companies like Zynga and LinkedIn that are currently enjoying sky-high valuations.
Relief over the sale was palpable on Wednesday, and not just at the News Corporation. Wall Street “just wanted it done, because it’s been a real drag on growth,” said Michael Nathanson, a media sector analyst for Nomura Securities.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the News Corporation said that it would retain a minority stake. Specific Media said it had brought on board the artist Justin Timberlake as a part owner and an active player in MySpace’s future, but said little else about how the site would change.
The sale closes a complex chapter in the history of the Internet and of the News Corporation, which was widely envied by other media companies when it acquired MySpace in 2005. At that time, MySpace was the world’s fastest-growing social network, with 20 million unique visitors each month in the United States. That figure soon soared to 70 million, but the network could not keep pace with Facebook, which overtook MySpace two years ago.
As users fled MySpace, so, too, did advertisers. The market research firm eMarketer estimates that the site will earn about $183 million in worldwide ad revenue this year, down from $605 million at its peak, when the site introduced many Web users and many advertisers to the concept of social networking."