Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Social Net Catches More and More

JUNE 26, 2006

MySpace is roaring up the charts, reaching number seven in US unique visitors last month.

By Debra Aho Williamson - Senior Analyst

Can 51 million people be a fad? The executives at News Corp. and MySpace certainly hope not.

Last month, MySpace racked up visits from 51.4 million unique visitors in the US, according to comScore Media Metrix. That represents 30% of the entire US Internet population and doesn't include traffic from international markets, where MySpace is making an ever bigger push. MySpace was the seventh most visited site on the Internet last month.

Traffic to MySpace dwarfs that of the next most visited social networking site,, according to comScore Media Metrix.

(The sites comScore includes in its list of social networking sites are open to debate: YouTube and Flickr seem more like applications than networking sites, while LiveJournal and Xanga are blogging sites.)

As MySpace seeks to add a search engine partner, the stakes only get larger. MSN, Google and Yahoo are all expected to compete for the right to provide search technology to those users. Right now MySpace's search engine is woefully inadequate. With billions of pages and thousands of new users added every day, the need for a better solution is strong.

"The popularity of social networking is not expected to wane in the near future," said Peter Daboll, president and CEO of comScore Media Metrix. "This is a phenomenon we're seeing not only in the US, but also around the world."

One thing that marketers and media are watching closely is the level of loyalty that users feel toward social networking sites. According to Nielsen//NetRatings, MySpace has the highest user retention: 67% of visitors in April 2006 had been at the site the previous year. Other sites such as Facebook and Xanga showed less loyalty.

Can other social network sites compete with MySpace at this point? While the site will continue to add members at a rapid pace, eMarketer expects that there will soon be a proliferation of so-called "vertical" social network sites focusing on smaller audience slices such as mothers, sports fans and Hispanic people.

These sites will obviously have much less reach than MySpace but could offer a more finely targeted advertising opportunity for marketers.

Want to learn more about advertising on social network sites? Sign up to be notified when eMarketer's report Marketing on Social Networks is published in July.