They were very sweet about not cooperating. They weren’t against the book, but since MySpace wasn’t participating, they couldn’t either. So we’ll see. The Journal said it would run an excerpt from the book—they do that for all Journal reporters—but I’ll be interested to see if that happens.
At the time you completed the book in April 2008, you wrote: “MySpace remains the dominant social networking website, with seventy-two million monthly visitors in the United States.” As I’m sure you know, that is no longer the case. Facebook has taken the lead.
No, you’re incorrect. What’s actually happened is that Facebook has surpassed them worldwide, but in the U.S., MySpace is still ahead, with 75 million monthly uniques, versus 57 million for Facebook.
That always depends on where you’re getting the numbers. [Angwin’s numbers are confirmed by comScore. However, statistics from Compete and Nielsen Online tell a different story, with the latter site pegging Facebook at 62.4 million uniques in January 2009, versus 60.6 million for MySpace.]
Right, but I’m sticking with comScore. Again, MySpace is out ahead, but stagnating. It’s like AOL: when you’re that big, it takes a long time to fall.
So what do you see in the site’s future?
I think MySpace is in a difficult position. [Former News Corp. president] Peter Chernin has left, and he was actually very involved. The COO and the two top engineers also just left. And Tom and Chris—well, their contracts are up in the fall. There’s no question that they have to innovate. But I see people leaving, and I see them launching a celebrity news site, which is not what they need to be focusing on. So the prospects aren’t great. On the other hand, you never know.
After all, the whole phenomenon is only five years old.
Absolutely. It’s all so new. When I was working on the book, I don’t think I even thought about Twitter. And now it’s taking over the world!
Let me bring the conversation back to your own experience for a moment. Putting aside the drama of corporate mergers, how have the new media affected your own work as a journalist?
Interestingly, I don’t use these media too much as a journalist. I’m very—you know, most of my book is anonymously sourced—and for me, some of these things are difficult to handle. I need to be on them, but I don’t want to expose my sources in any way, or my reporting techniques. I find them great for the promotion of a finished product. They’re also useful for starting a conversation about something I’m interested in. But when it comes to ferreting out facts, they’re just not that useful.
What’s your take on Twitter, which Google CEO Eric Schmidt just called “a poor man’s e-mail system”?
That’s totally inaccurate. People don’t use Twitter for email at all—he’s obviously never been on it [laughing].
So you don’t use Twitter in your work?
I do use Twitter. I use it to promote myself and my book.
And as a journalist?
Occasionally I’ve thrown out questions. I haven’t gotten great answers. It works for other people, but the kind of questions I ask require answers that are more than 140 characters long.
I’m looking at your own MySpace profile right now. I see you’re a Libra. I also see that you’ve got only twenty-nine friends—shouldn’t you be pushing on this a little harder?
Those twenty-nine friends—I worked really hard to get them! I’ve been trying to get friends on MySpace since I started this book, which is two years ago. And without even trying, I have amassed 300 Facebook friends; they’re just rolling in. Our demographic is not on there! My generation of thirtysomething professionals, people working in media and things like that? They are not on MySpace.
Won’t Tila Tequila be your friend?
Tila wouldn’t cooperate either.