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MySpace: social sites will never be friends

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A leading MySpace executive has said it is extremely unlikely that there will ever be integration between social networking websites.

Jay Stephens, vice president of sales and operations with MySpace, told attendees at the Empathy Marketing conference in Dublin on Wednesday that sites such as Bebo, Facebook and MySpace are unlikely to ever offer an open platform for users to integrate the services offered by these sites.

"Ultimately people identify with [online] publishing the same way they do in the offline world. The newspapers we read and the television channels we view are representative of what you are about," said Stephens. He went on to say that there is some interaction but that people use different social networks for different purposes. "Some people might be on Bebo to communicate with friends but will then go to MySpace to check out what's new in popular culture."

MySpace has over 120 million profiles in its network, adding new profiles at a rate of three per second. The company was founded three years ago and was purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation for $580m last year. Stephens said MySpace had enjoyed more success and attracted more interest than previous efforts because it focused on allowing users to connect with one another.

"The problem with sites like Geocities was that they couldn't sell ads because there was no ability for users to connect. MySpace allows them to make friends online," explained Stephens. He said this had a knock on effect for advertisers using the site. "Users create an affinity to brands and to friends. It becomes like the posters they put on the walls in their rooms."

MySpace has been used as a promotional tool by millions of bands both large and small, most famously by the Sheffield-based Arctic Monkeys. Stephens said groups like these have helped to market MySpace to a wider audience. "There's nothing better than having 3.4 million garage bands going out and directing people to the site."

The company is currently working with several businesses to develop branded communities. The film Step Up, starring Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, has developed a branded community and is using MySpace as its sole online presence for its UK release. These communities are designed for users to add content from the brand's MySpace page to their own profile, thus increasing the brand's overall presence. Stephens said the company aims to develop this concept on a global basis.

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