Myspace is dead: Long live Myspace. The late social network known for garish user-generated designs is back in a bid to become what its leaders say it should have been from the beginning: a home for artist discovery and development. But after years of fumbling, can this Internet punchline become relevant again? I put that question to Roger Mincheff, president of Myspace Entertainment.
In February, Mincheff left his post running 20th Century Fox's digital strategy for branded entertainment to join Myspace. Before that, he ran his own digital marketing agency, Spacedog Media, where he worked with Citibank, Panasonic, Qantas and independent comic book publisher Top Cow (orginator of Spawn), introducing product placement into comic books and - surprise - writing original graphic novels, many of which he sold to major film studios.
In early 2012, Mincheff was tapped for Myspace by new owners Tim and Chris Vanderhook, who setup a meeting with minority owner Justin Timberlake in a Manhattan restaurant that was emptied for the occasion. The meeting sealed the deal.
I met Mincheff several months ago for breakfast in Beverly Hills, far from pesky PR staffers and associates. We didn't have the whole restaurant to ourselves, but by the way he talked and lit up when he told his story, it almost felt that way.
RWW: What led you to take the Myspace position?
Roger Mincheff: I could not have been more excited or doing better at Fox, building this new business for them. But in talking about Myspace and content, Justin looked at me and said, "You're not cool because you say you're cool, you're cool because you do something cool."
And when you're sitting there and you have an opportunity to literally write history - whatever happens with Myspace it will either flame out, which I don't believe, or it will come back. No matter which one, it will be epic, and history will write that story. So to be part of a story like Myspace, with someone like Justin, where content is central, it was an epic opportnuity. I drink the Kool-Aid.
RWW: Were you onboard before Timberlake came on?
RM: It was a possibility, but when Justin said that, I said, "that's my calling."
RWW: What's the biggest challenge in rebuilding MySpace?
RM: The biggest issue is perception, because from a audience and consumer standpoint, Myspace is a phenomenal value. From a function standpoint, it is probably the best music/creative experience out there. But none of that matters if people don't know that. From the audience standpoint, it actually became cool to think Myspace was dead. But having the indie spirit of Justin and the Vanderhook brothers, I think when the audience tries the new Myspace, that will happen.
The harder obstacle in my mind is [convincing] the brands and the agencies. Because if you covered the name Myspace and just showed brands our numbers, we would be a "must." But what we have to overcome is the perception that Myspace isn't relevant.
The reality is we have a massive, young, active audience already; forget anything new. Part of it is just reeducating the brands about how relevant we really are and the impact we're capable of having. And I think when all of the new Myspace starts rolling out and getting exposed to that, I really do think on a lot of levels, it's manifest destiny. It has to happen.
RWW: What is the new Myspace?
RM: We're bringing Myspace back to what it should have been. Meaning the legacy of Myspace, the mission statement of Myspace hasn't changed at all. It's about empowering discovery. If you're an artist looking to be discovered or if you're a fan looking to discover, that's where Myspace will win. That is still at the core. The new Myspace is simply superior tools, technologies, community and support.
RWW: Who do you look up to in business?
RM: Lee Iacocca and Steve Jobs. They were going to fail or succeed, but the credit or blame would lay nowhere else but on them.
RWW: Is that what you would say is going on right now in your current role at Myspace?
RM: I'm the president of Myspace Entertainment, I head up the component of the company that makes content. So if you're going to see a concert, if you're going to see a series, if you're going to see any content that's from Myspace, distributed, I will own that. I can't be too pompous because a lot of other things have to go right. The technology has to work, the platform, the music, which is the driver, so a lot of things have to happen. But the content piece of it, which is mine, absolutely. That's why I look up to those guys and how you have to live your life. Own what you do and be ready to take the accolades or the blame.
RWW: You said earlier you have several unreleased comic-book properties ready for publication. How does that tie into the original content you're planning for Myspace?
RM: Myspace once had an incredible comic-book community. This is a platform for creators: How am I going to use my own platform to promote what it is I'm doing? I also have Arcana and Top Cow (comic book publishers), either one, I have an open invitation [to publish].
RWW: Could you do both? Could those be released via Myspace and in conjunction with a comic-book publisher?
RM: Absolutely. That's an interesting call. Do you actually show you're multimedia and you're paper and you're digital? Or is it even bolder to say: 'We're in the digital age, it's about digital, let's just do this digitally?' What I haven't decided is, with all of the things I have lined up, which one do I want to go with first?
RWW: With all these commitments going on, how do you stay sane and balanced?
RM: I've played softball with the same core group of guys every Monday night since 1993. It's a slice of sanity I can rely on every week. The second part of my answer is that I have 8-year-old twins, and while both are athletes, neither have ever played on a team that wasn't coached by Dad. It's been a scheduling nightmare at times, but definitely worth it. I don't think anything builds character like sports, and watching them develop their personalities has been one of life's best treats to date. The task at hand is so overwhelming that even if it's a couple minutes before I go to bed, or even if it's coaching my kids on a baseball team, those slivers of time I take for myself are my sanity. Softball, my kids and comics books, those really are my passions.