June 19, 2006 10:02 pm

MySpace outlines European expansion

MySpace, the social networking site, is to use the UK as a beachhead for a push into Europe that will see it link up with “old media” companies and mobile phone operators to attract more users.

Chris DeWolfe, co-founder and chief executive of MySpace, told the Financial Times on Monday that he had earmarked 11 countries for its international expansion, among them France and Germany, and was looking at China and India over the longer term.

MySpace, which was bought last year for $580m by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has grown rapidly since its inception three years ago and is now the biggest networking site, with 86m users who use it to post photos, blogs, music and videos.

The company will on Tuesday announce that David Fischer has been appointed as managing director for the UK and Europe. Mr Fischer, 40, was founder and chief executive of Xlantic Group, a music marketing company, and has worked at Pressplay and AOL Europe.

Mr Fischer, who will be responsible for negotiating with television and music content owners to develop local versions of MySpace, said the first foreign-language sites would be ready later this summer.

He is also looking for alliances with mobile operators to deliver content over mobile phones, an area where Mr DeWolfe predicted “significant” revenues. “I think most [mobile operators] think the killer application could be MySpace.”

MySpace in February announced a partnership with Helio, a virtual mobile network operator, to distribute content in the US. A European version will be launched “before the end of the year”, said Mr DeWolfe. But “the United States is so far behind in mobile technology that it may be not as important as it is here [Europe] or in Asia”, he added.

MySpace is still looking for a search engine partner to add search-based advertising revenues to its business model, but Mr DeWolfe said a deal should be worked out “in the next couple of months”.

Peter Chernin, News Corp’s chief operating officer, said last week that MySpace would “auction off” its search business to Google, Yahoo or MSN. Mr DeWolfe pointed out that the most common site for MySpace users to move to on leaving his site was Google, but would not say whether it had identified a preferred partner.

The bulk of MySpace’s revenue comes from advertising, although Mr DeWolfe said he also wanted to increase revenue from transactions, such as paid downloads of the TV series 24 which the site began selling last month.

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