When the world’s most popular social network decides to get into the social news business, you expect them to make it, well, social. On the contrary, the new MySpace News site is anything but social. In fact, MySpace has left out just about every feature that makes competing social news sites like Digg and Reddit so popular and addictive.
There’s ample opportunity for innovation in social news. The current leading sites tend to have a decided tech slant. As a result there’s plenty of room for social news that is either more general in focus, or more narrowly targeted to a niche not well served by Digg and others. MySpace News does nothing to capitalize on this opportunity.
Social news sites allow users to vote on stories. As a result, the most popular stories rise to the top and are seen by more readers. That’s the simple definition of social news — the way you would quickly explain it to your mother. In reality, there’s quite a bit more to it than that. The problem is MySpace News looks like it was designed for your mother. Or maybe by your mother. Either way, based on the extremely small number of votes the top stories are currently receiving, MySpace News appears to be a flop.
Why is MySpace News failing so badly? Here are a few of the most obvious reasons:
- No integration the main MySpace website. MySpace News is a separate website that’s completely disconnected from the main MySpace site. It’s not clear how a MySpace user would even find the site since it currently isn’t linked from the MySpace home page, or even the MySpace user pages. How is it possible that a major corporation could launch a highly publicized feature on their website and forget to link to it from their home page?
- Users are given no context for social news. There’s no explanation of what social news is or what users are expected to do. Given the amount of time MySpace users spend on MySpace, there’s no guarantee that they understand what social news is and how it works. But then, apparently neither does MySpace.
- There’s no incentive for participating. In fact, there’s hardly any way to participate at all. Users submit quality articles to Digg and Reddit partially because of the recognition they receive when their article reaches the home page or is ranked as one of the top stories. By contrast, MySpace News does not take user submissions. Instead news articles are selected by some undisclosed process. There’s a link to a page where bloggers can submit their website, but that’s it.
- Anonymous voting. Social network users like to see what their friends are up to. That’s why they call them “social” networks. On a site like Digg users can designate friends and easily see what articles their friends have voted on. Since friends share similar interests, there’s a good chance that my friends will find stories that interest me, and vice versa. On MySpace News all voting is anonymous. That pretty much eliminates the ability to track what your friends have voted on.
- No user comments. If all of the above reasons weren’t enough, MySpace doesn’t even allow readers to comment on articles. It really does beg the question, why is this being called social news? There’s absolutely no way for users to interact with each other in relation to the stories appearing on MySpace News.
- No RSS feed. Since I’ve already admitted to being an RSS addict, I have to mention this obvious glaring omission. I’m sure that some will argue that RSS is still for geeks and early adopters. That may have been true a couple of years ago, but these days RSS is mainstream. The lack of an RSS feed for MySpace News may be the final nail in the coffin for this service. Not only are they making it more difficult for users to actually track news through MySpace, but they’re losing out on the traffic that could be generated by an RSS feed as well. But I guess traffic isn’t an issue when you have as many users as MySpace does.
Last week after the site launch there was some speculation that MySpace may have rushed this feature online in order to capitalize on the Virginia Tech shootings (see the comments on Mashable). That could explain why so much seems to be missing. Regardless, as it stands now MySpace News is no Digg-killer.