Time Inc. Acquires MySpace: It’s All About the Customer Data

Were you unsure MySpace still existed? Time Inc., who is the owner of Time, Fortune, and People magazines, has acquired Viant. Viant is the parent company of Myspace. So why would Time Inc do that? My sources say that it’s all about the data! News Corp bought Myspace for $580 million back in 2005. Then in 2011 an ad network Specific Media, another Viant-owned company, scooped up Myspace for $35 million in 2011. What did Viant get for that money? Viant received a database of more than 1 billion registered users. And we know that not all of those people have  the same email address from their Myspace days, but Viant felt it still has an enviable mass of first-party data.

Who Uses MySpace? MySpace may have slipped from the online ad world’s general consciousness, but it is actually doing fairly well, especially among young audiences of 17 to 25-year-olds, particularly music and entertainment fans” said Tim Vanderhook, chief executive of Viant Inc., Specific Media’s parent company. MySpace even features some original content as well as ads from brands like Jeep. Between desktop and mobile devices, MySpace reached 50.6 million unique users in the U.S. in November. That’s a massive surge of 575% versus the same month in 2013.

What Does MySpace Use it For? “MySpace was an early photo-sharing platform,” said Mr. Vanderhook. “So we still see a lot of people coming back to access old photos. They may not visit every day but they come back once a week or once a month.” There is a large return of visitors from MySpace’s mid-2000s –particularly on Thursdays. Many people have old digital photos stored on the site, which they retrieve for “Throwback Thursday.”  It’s a popular social media ritual in which people post retro photos on social media.

Why is first-party data so key? First-party data is considered the best when it comes to advertising online.  It means marketers know they are serving ads to the actual consumer they want to be targeting, rather than making probabilistic bets based on browsing behavior. What was key was the registration data that led to Viant launching its Advertising Cloud in 2014, which contains an “identity-management platform.” This platform allows marketers to connect their own databases with Viant’s data and it also contains a demand-side ad platform, an ad server, and a data-analytics platform.

So what does Time plan to do with Myspace (Viant)? Time says the acquisition of Viant will help the company by being able to target ad delivery to the optimal audiences as well as to link devices back to real people and then converting ad spending to actual sales and closing the ROI loop. They feel this data from Viant gives Time competitive advantage compared to its competitors or “rivals industry leaders Facebook and Google” when it comes to ad tech and provides a first-party data set.

Back in 2015 Viant lined up registration data from multiple online media companies to combine with the MySpace data Mr. Vanderhook wouldn’t say which companies are supplying the data, but noted it’s not Google, Facebook or Amazon). Viant takes that registration data, anonymizes it, and then connects it with advertisers’ own in-store shopping data. What Vanderhook feels is so valuable is that the combination of data, which he claims few companies outside of perhaps Facebook are capable of, which will provide advertisers with a true read on how their online advertising impacts real world sales.

Since May of 2015 the Advertising Cloud suite of products has handled $5 billion in ad transactions for a set of beta advertisers. Vanderhook said, “We’ve seen return on investment improve by a factor of 10 or 20.” Exactly what what Viant plans to do with Myspace, which still attracts tens of millions of visitors each month and counts pop star Justin Timberlake among its investors, remains to be seen. It’s very interesting though! Lesson? Never count anyone out!

@Drnatalie, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

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