Saturday, April 4, 2009

Julia Angwin's "Stealing MySpace"

Julia Angwin is an award-winning journalist at The Wall Street Journal, where she writes about the convergence of technology and media.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America, and reported the following:
"Better Than Botox!" "Watch the Fat Disappear!" The page 99 test reveals a very important part of my book, Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Web Site in America.

It was 2004, and MySpace's parent company, Intermix, was blanketing the Web with ads for its wrinkle-reducing cream Hydroderm, and its diet pill Dream Shape. The money was rolling in – the two products generated $11.3 million in sales a year – but customer complaints were mounting.

The Los Angeles Better Business Bureau was deluged with reports from customers who had signed up for what they thought was a free trial. Instead, these customers were charged a shipping & handling fee of $5.95 and were automatically enrolled for monthly shipments at $49.95 apiece. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had also weighed in with a letter, requesting Intermix to provide support for its diet pill claims such as "Increases Lean Muscle Mass."

Intermix's newly installed CEO Richard Rosenblatt couldn't afford to shut down the wrinkle cream business. He needed the money to fund Intermix, which had racked up $13.5 million in losses for the year.

To shore up the business, he was considering ditching MySpace, which had lost $319,000 in its first six months of existence. At the company board meeting, he asked Intermix's directors to contemplate the following question "Do we sell MySpace? Or are we missing the next Google?"

Rosenblatt's decision is a tipping point for MySpace. It sets up the 'theft' that is the subject of the title Stealing MySpace.
Read an excerpt from Stealing MySpace, and visit Julia Angwin's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue