Katherine Boehret

Trying Out a Revamped Myspace

Thanks to the popularity of Facebook, it’s easy to assume that all social networks are designed primarily to connect friends with one another. But many of these networks—think Twitter, Yelp and LinkedIn—aren’t focused on that. Instead, they provide information from strangers, business contacts and group postings on a variety of topics. Myspace is now also shifting in this direction after Facebook decisively overtook it as the most popular social network.

Last month, the company rolled out a revamped version of Myspace, which is owned by News Corp., publisher of the Wall Street Journal. I’ve been testing it to see what has changed and if it’s worth using. Its interface is cleaner than the old version of Myspace and I found it easy to navigate. It’s also inviting for non-members or people who’ve long-since given up on Myspace. But I can’t definitely say I like it enough to add it to my large list of social networks.

Step one of this site’s rehab was a new focus. Myspace (myspace.com) was redesigned to serve as a source of information about entertainment. People who use it can follow five categories—TV, music, movies, celebrities and comedy—that include more than 100,000 topics. News about these topics comes from sites all over the Web and is arranged on users’ home pages to show loads of information at a glance. A Discovery tab at the top of the page shows content related to trends on Myspace makes suggestions based on a user’s preferences and taste. A spokesman said the Myspace topics can be expanded, but for now, if you’re fonder of, say, books, theater or hard news, Myspace won’t be a good fit.

Step two for Myspace included making nice with its old competitor. It now works with Facebook Connect to pull in people’s Facebook “likes” and interests, which automatically generate customized Myspace pages for new users.

The final step of the Myspace redesign was its emphasis on music. The site still contains one of the largest Web music catalogs that plays full versions of songs for anyone who visits Myspace. New versions of band profile pages look more organized. And all artists with band profiles will have ReverbNation’s FanReach email product integrated into their profile to help them create targeted email campaigns for fans.

Was Myspace’s rehabilitation worth the effort? I’ve been using it for a week and it has taught me a lot more than I knew about things I care about. I had no idea that one of my favorite TV shows, TNT’s “The Closer,” recently said that 2011 would be its last season. Nor did I know that Anthony Bourdain blogs about his role as a judge on “Top Chef Masters.” These items and others appeared on my Home page after I performed the process that the Myspace site refers to as a Facebook Mashup.

The Facebook Mashup does a few things automatically for you, in addition to generating a Myspace page filled with topic-related news. A playlist is created in the Music section of your page that contains artists whom you “like” on Facebook (or whom you indicated while setting up an account). And the Videos section of the Myspace page will reflect your tastes in a list of Followed Channels related to your Facebook preferences.

The Home page can be seen in one of three views—List, Grid or Play—and icons at the top of the screen let users toggle among these views. My favorite was Grid View in the Full Grid View format, visible by clicking a small box at the top of the page.

Some of the content displayed on my Home page was mixed up. For example, a tile representing the story about Mr. Bourdain’s blog (originally posted on Celebrifi.com) displayed with it a photo of actor Tom Cruise, who wasn’t mentioned in that post. Another Tom, Tom Colicchio, chef and a “Top Chef Masters” judge, was mentioned in the post, but that doesn’t explain the mix-up.

Anything that falls into the 100,000 plus topics of Myspace’s realm can be found via a search box in the top right corner of the page, but this box is confusingly labeled, “Search People.” Though Myspace still allows users to search for and friend one another, the label on this search box is puzzling, given the greater reach of the site.

You can watch video content from Hulu.com (of which News Corp. is part owner) without jumping to a new page. And videos also come from other sources like TMZ and the NFL.

Users can earn recognition badges—icons that show up on their page—for their involvement on Myspace, and can become curators of topics, awarded on the basis of users’ involvement and how much other people respond to their activity.

This week, a Myspace mobile app was launched in Apple’s App Store, and an Android app is due out next year.

Myspace successfully reinvented itself in a way that could very well get people using it again, but Facebook’s more personalized social network may be more valuable than a rich library of entertainment content.

Edited by Walter S. Mossberg

Write to Katherine Boehret at mossbergsolution@wsj.com

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