Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Memo to the Vanderhook Clan: Stunt Casting Justin Timberlake Isn’t Going to Get Myspace’s SexyBack

Oh dear, oh my — with the first move that the new owners of Myspace have made, it’s pretty clear they are taking the worrisome look-at-the-shiny-celebrity approach.

The trio of Vanderhook brothers who run Specific Media, which paid $35 million to buy the News Corp.-owned music-focused social networking site, loudly added Justin Timberlake as an investor in the deal yesterday and then gave a lot of interviews around it.

In its press release, Specific Media said Timberlake would “play a major role in developing the creative direction and strategy for the company moving forward” and focus on being a premier original content destination.

“There’s a need for a place where fans can go to interact with their favorite entertainers, listen to music, watch videos, share and discover cool stuff and just connect. Myspace has the potential to be that place,” Timberlake said in the release. “Art is inspired by people and vice versa, so there’s a natural social component to entertainment. I’m excited to help revitalize Myspace by using its social media platform to bring artists and fans together in one community.”

Sounds good, I suppose, but maybe they should focus on making products the star first.

Nope, the star is the star first, even though swanning around the appealing singer and actor’s name felt a lot like shilling him.

Justin has a vision! Justin will have a team of creatives around him! Justin is being ironic, having played a techie and now being one!

Justin will even be in the office! Um, sometimes!

Well, whatev, since I have been to these celebrity-meets-the-Internet rodeos before, and they have mostly ended in tears in terms of creating any kind of real Web property.

Remember Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and their LivePlanet fiasco back in Web 1.0? Wasn’t RuPaul around then helping WebEx? Didn’t the much-hyped MC Hammer dance site called DanceJam get sold off in 2009?

And I’m still waiting for several Web efforts by Ashton Kutcher, such as Internet fare for Katalyst Films, to make any ripple. In fact, the new “Two and a Half Men” television star has now seemed to focus more in investing in tech start-ups as a quieter partner.

In Hollywood terms, most of these high-profile marriages of glamour and nerd have been turkeys.

Of course, they will never stop, and I like to rub shoulders against a celeb, too, especially when it’s at the dull geekfests that take place in Silicon Valley.

But the only way Myspace is going to revive itself, even at the bargain basement price that Specific Media paid for it, is to focus relentlessly on figuring out a strategy, hire a team of crack engineers, and inspire them to build a killer product.

I don’t know what that will look like, but I do know the creation of such innovations requires a head-down approach of truly committed people, and not some all-night party of fabulous.

For a long time, Myspace’s creators were very interested in the latter and were not engaged in making the former happen.

And, by the time new managers did, it seemed to be too late and News Corp. was too sick and tired to tolerate it, writing Myspace off as a too-tarnished brand to make thrive again.

So it sold Myspace and who knows what tomorrow and Specific Media will bring.

All I can think of to say is what I wrote on Twitter yesterday when asked what lesson came from the Myspace debacle and what advice I would give to the new owners.

That would be: Don’t suck.

That’s a lot harder to do than it seems.

In any case, at least Timberlake makes really good music videos, as you will see below for his “SexyBack”:


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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”