Not many people have taken Rupert Murdoch’s views on the online world very seriously in recent years. He bought MySpace for $580m in 2005, but had to dump in 2011 for just $35m as interest in the site had all but dried up.
Then there’s his slapping a pay wall on his newspaper websites in the UK. Many suspect that his reader figures are pretty low considering News Corporation won’t make them publicly available. Not to mention that on the day of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the firm lifted the pay wall for a day, desperate not to lose out on the inevitable spike in traffic. Although many rivals would love to make punters pay for online content.
But perhaps, just this time, he might be right. In a tweet on Friday, he said: ‘Look out Facebook! Hours spent participating per member dropping seriously. First really bad sign as seen by crappy MySpace years ago.’ At least he has the self-awareness to acknowledge his own bad decision in this field.
Apparently (according to the Pew Research Center in the US) 28% of Facebook’s users now say that the social networking site is less important to them than the year before, and about 34% said that they are spending less time on the site when they do visit.
It is now universally recognised that the firm was seriously over-valued at the time of the IPO, when $38 per share was announced as the opening price. That valued the firm at over $110bn, but the price very quickly almost halved. It sits at around $64bn market capitalisation today.
As far as Murdoch’s comments go, it is just possible that the guy doesn’t really know how to make online work. MySpace is now enjoying something of a resurgence (since Justin Timberlake and other investors bought in and revamped it), suggesting that these brands can be made to work with the right minds behind them.
It’s also worth noting that the ‘time spent’ metric on Facebook was always bound to show a drop-off eventually. The only way it can increase in perpetuity is if people eventually spend every waking minute on it. And the fact that other apps such as Instagram, Snapchat video messaging and Whatsapp messaging are taking up time that would otherwise have been spent on the social network, doesn’t mean people are deleting their Facebook accounts.
In Murdoch’s case, it looks like you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.