Table of Content
2. The Methodology
3. Plotting the Scenario
3.1 The Changing Face of Online Marketing
3.2 The New MySpace Social Market
3.3 The Scenario Matrix
4. The Scenario
4.1 Corporate-Controlled MySpace
4.2 User-Controlled MySpace
5. Concluding Words
Eyebrows were raised in July 2005, when the media giant Rupert Murdoch purchased the online social network site MySpace.com for an estimated USD $ 580 million as part of News Corp’s USD $ 1.3 billion Web acquisition spree (ROSMARIN 2006). Even though MySpace was growing in popularity amongst the tech-savvy young adults in the United States (US), with merely 8,210 users in April 2005 an insignificant amount for Internet standards, a less than lucrative revenue pipeline through sparse on-site advertisements, and a questionable, if not, non-existent long-term business plan, the future of MySpace appeared, at best, to be promising, but uncertain (NIELSEN NETRATINGS 2006). A year into the consolidation, the impact of News Corp’s acquisition is evident, albeit only on the surface. Most notable is the dramatic increase in user base, as MySpace user base reached more than 55 million as of August 2006 (COMSCORE MEDIA METRIX 10/2006). For consecutive months since the acquisition, the site has topped the list of most popular US social network sites, gaining tail speed as its competitors trail behind by an ever-growing margin (COMSCORE MEDIA METRIX 06/2006). It’s rise to fame peaked in July 2006, when news of the site surpassing Yahoo! Mail as the most visited domain on the Internet in the US headlined in a number of US and international traditional media outlet (HITWISE 2006).
There is substantial improvements on MySpace to match the statistics. Since it’s acquisition, MySpace has introduced a number of features from video clip postings to karaoke recordings, allowing its users to choose from a broad pallet of web applications to embellish their personal MySpace profiles. The financial leverage is also evident, as news sifter through about the company’s plans to venture into the music and entertainment industries by setting up its own record label and film production agencies (HEMPEL et al. 2005). No longer satisfied with just the US market, MySpace has also recently announced its plans to expand into the Asian and European market setting up initial European regional sites at key market points such as the United Kingdom, France, and, as of September 2006, in Germany (SCOTT 2006). With media coverage, business venture announcements and feature extension on a monthly basis, it is near impossible to decipher the course that News Corp plans to take its latest prodigy.
Amidst the pandemonium, one business venture that has recently been capturing the attention of the industry is the marketing potential of MySpace. News Corp’s acquisition of the site reflects a general trend of growing industrial interests in a new breed of Internet-based services known for their interactive, collaborative and connected user communities. However, MySpace, like most of these new breed of web-based services, is not originally designed to serve as a standalone, profitable business. While the new owners are eager to tap into the highly lucrative consumer base, there is an inherent conflict that may make or break the future of the service. Already News Corp is introducing aggressive advertising campaigns as a means to monetize on the growing
MySpace user base. However, the inundation of pop-up ads, on-site ads and other classical push-based online marketing tricks are leaving social networkers frustrated with the platform (LICHTENBERG 2006). Given that the core assets of MySpace are the users, and user loyalty amidst the growing saturation of the social network market is steadily decreasing, the move towards commercialization is a precarious and potentially detrimental move. As a high profile player in the rising new generation of web services, MySpace is one of the most eagerly observed case study, as scholars and industrial experts ponder the question as to how MySpace can monetize on its user assets without surfeiting them to rivals or non-commercial replicates.
Given the apparent incompatibility of the News Corp - MySpace consolidation, with one representing the apex of traditional media and the other thriving from a grassroots foundation, this paper will examine the future commercial potential of MySpace amidst the conflicting, yet ever-more frequent nature of this matrimony. The focus of this paper will be on the marketing potential of MySpace, while the backdrop of research will be the US consumer market. The aim of this paper is of twofold: 1. to investigate how the Internet is not only changing consumer behavior and expectation, but becoming a breeding ground for new marketing solutions, and 2. to explore this new type of marketing in the form of a scenario by using MySpace as an experimental, thought-platform in exploring the future of marketing in a growing social market.
The overall structure of this paper is based on the systematic foundations of scenario research. Chapter 2 will introduce the core methodological framework of this research. The aim of this chapter is of threefold: 1. to introduce the select method and to explain its significance in studying future market developments, 2. to show how the method will be re-appropriated for this research, and 3. to provide the framework for the scenario planning process of the ensuing chapter. Chapter 3 will deliver the main investigative components of the scenario research. This chapter is divided into three main sections: Chapter 3.1 will provide the focal point of research and, therefore, set the main story-line that will be probed in the scenario. The aim of this section is to deliver the argumentative background for the research. Chapter 3.2 will examine the driving forces and trends that are perceived to have a direct or indirect impact on marketing on MySpace. The aim of this section is to develop a list of factors and attributes that will play a crucial role in sculpting the plot of the scenario. Chapter 3.3 will provide the final element in building the scenario by identifying the so-called variables of uncertainty. These variables represent factors and trends derived from the previous section that serve as a tipping point in which the future outcomes of the plot diverge. The aim of this section is to use this axis in crafting a scenario matrix that will serve as the blueprint of the final scenario. Chapter 4 will deliver the results of the investigation in form of a two-part scenario.
2. The Methodology
This chapter will introduce the methodological framework of this research by looking at three key aspects: 1. the reason behind the choice of methodology; 2. the significance of the select method for scientific research, and 3. how the method will be reappropriated for this research. Given the extensiveness and broad scope of the select methodology, adjustments have been made to meet the pre-defined requirements of this assignment. The aim of this chapter is to provide a systematic framework of research in plotting the final scenario.
The rapidly changing, complex and unpredictable nature of the emerging technological market is paving the way to newfound interests and application of future studies methodologies as a means to examine market developments. Whereas traditional forecast methodology once serves the crux of prognostic research, the single definitive diagnosis that is characteristic of the forecast approach is proving to be inadequate in case studies that involve highly unpredictable and volatile markets (COURTNEY et al. 2001). As demonstrated in a review, which examines the application of forecast method in a case study for the field of telecommunication. The review shows that the forecast study fails to deliver and predict new products and service lines (FILDES et al. 2002). The research concludes that the forecast approach is inadequate when exploring cases of high uncertainty, where future developments are dependent on broad sets of unpredictable variables (FILDES et al. 2002). As a result, experts are turning to alternative means to probe future developments, ones that consider broader sets of probable as well as potentially counterintuitive futures (GRUPP et al 1998).
One such technique is the foresight approach, which, unlike traditional forecast method, explores divergent storylines and takes the unpredictable nature of future developments into consideration. By introducing so-called variables of uncertainty, the foresight approach not only requires investigators to explore areas that are likely to cause a split in the outcome of the research, but also to use these diverging points as a point-of-departure in exploring the future developments of the investigative study (SCHWARTZ 1991). By rejecting that the notion that future developments can be represented in a single, definitive forecast, the foresight approach opens up the process by allowing for a broader investigative playing field. There are a number of different types of foresight approaches, however, for this research a variant known as the scenario planning approach will be used as the core investigative framework.
Characterized as a technique that synthesizes creativity with systematic investigation, the scenario planning approach is most often used in cases that require added attention on causal processes and crucial decision points. The benefits of this methodology include the capacity: 1. to display interactions between different trends and events so as to form a holistic picture of the probed subject matter, 2. to help audit the consistency of diagnosed set of events when used in correlation with forecast methods, and 3. to portray future situations in a manner that is easily comprehensible to nonspecialists in the subject area (MARTINO 1983). While there is a broad spectrum of scenario planning techniques, two of the most renown are the structural scenario method also known as the French School founded by Henry de Jouvenel and the Global Business Network (GBN) popularized by the oil firm Shell during the 1980s (DE JOUVENEL 2000; SCHWARTZ 1991). The main distinction between the two schools is an issue of formality: Whereas the French school applies a strict set of rules as well as quantitative techniques to map out a clear route leading to the final story-lines, the GBN method introduces a more flexible approach by using expert observations and insights to define the key factors, driving forces and alternative visions that make up the plot of the scenario. While both forms of scenario research require extensive and broad scope of analysis, this paper will adopt the more flexible GBN approach, which allows for more room for modifications.
The core operative framework of the GBN approach can be narrowed down into eight practical steps (SCHWARTZ 1991). As seen in Figure 1, these eight steps will be condensed in this research into three sections that makes up Chapter 3 of this paper.
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Figure 1: The Eight Steps of Scenario Plotting
According to Schwartz, the first step in building a scenario is to define the focal point of research (SCHWARTZ 1991). The focal point serves not only to narrow down a perceivably infinite number of possible futures into finitely manageable plots, but also sets the investigative foundations of the scenario plotting process. The aim of Section 1 is, therefore, to draw from a broad context of events a single investigative focus that will serve as the core research framework in the scenario plotting process.
The next step in the scenario building process is to identify the main driving forces and trends that are perceived to have a direct as well as indirect impact on the investigative topic. The two-step process of the GBN approach has been combined into one research section, which will be examined in Chapter 3.2. The aim of this section is to comprise a list of factors and attributes that will ultimately shape the plot of the scenario and also determine the elements that may serve as a tipping point in the storyline. Given the extensiveness of this stage in a formal scenario research, a number of adjustments have been applied so as to stay within the requirements of this assignment. To begin with, the scope of analysis in a formal scenario research typically considers a broad spectrum of factors ranging from social, technological, economic to political issues (SCHWARTZ et al. 1998). Such a broad scope of analysis involves indepth investigation and goes beyond the scope of this paper. As a result, the focus will be primarily on issues that have a direct impact on MySpace, while the findings are to be viewed as preliminary results for future expansion. Furthermore, the act of gathering information has been modified, given that this exercise typically takes the form of multiple phases of brainstorming sessions, which involves the integration of external expertise in the form of interviews, survey or future workshops. However, the inclusion of external experts in a participatory manner is not feasible for this assignment. Instead, the investigation is based on extrapolations of both quantitative as well as qualitative research material derived from key US market research institutions and experts in the field. Due to the novelty of the research topic, which amongst others also constitutes a niche demographic group, access to up-to-date and topic-specific surveys as well as studies is limited, if not rare. As a result, conjectures are drawn from reviewing materials largely derived from discussions circulating the blogosphere as well as studies and surveys that are open to the public.
The final section is a combination of Steps 4 through 8 of the GBN approach and delivers the finishing touches by identifying the axis of uncertainty, and using this axis in drawing up a scenario matrix that will serve as the blueprint of the scenario. While there is no general rules in writing a scenario, this assignment will use the guidelines introduced by Courtney et al. in developing natural, discrete scenarios (COURTNEY et al. 2001). The first rule is to limit the number of alternative scenarios so as to prevent ease strategic decision-making. The second rule is to avoid developing redundant scenarios so as to filter out elements may have no unique or practical implications. The final rule is to develop a set of scenarios that collectively account for the probable range of future outcomes and not necessarily the entire possible range. Given the number of adjustments as well as limited scope of this research, the investigative findings as well as the scenario are to be viewed as preliminary results to be elaborated in future research.
- ISBN (eBook)
- ISBN (Buch)
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- Institution / Hochschule
- Universität der Künste Berlin – Institute of Electronic Business
- Social media User generated marketing marketing Social network Future Vision Scenario