MySpace's fact and fiction

As the FT headlines this morning, Google has just inked a $900 million deal with MySpace to what is called a "multi-year search and advertising deal." If you can't beat them, join them, seems to be the rationale of Google. As the FT says, the social networking model is threatening to "tip the balance of power" away from traditional portals and search engines.

But the question still remains: what sort of advertising can you permit on a social networking site like MySpace which is valued by its users for for its authenticity, for its lack of advertising?

The Wall Street Journal answered this yesterday. In a brilliantly revealing piece entitled "On MySpace, Millions of Users Make "Friends" with Ads",  Elizabeth Holmes shows how MySpace is collapsing fact and fiction and turning it into cash.

MySpace are doing advertising deals with parent company News Corp to create profiles of fictional characters on the social network. So alongside the real MySpacers like Micheal Poirier, a 32 year-old from Toronto, you have invented profiles like a fellow called "Ricky Bobby", a fictional character (played by Will Ferrell) in a movie called "Tallega Nights."

Micheal and Ricky Bobby are friends. And Micheal is not alone. Ricky Bobby has 47,000 other "friends" who have linked their page to his page. And his page has 1,500 comments are full of such friendly wisdom as "Ricky Bobby is the Man!!"

And who is paying for these 47,000 friendships? It's News Corp. They are paying MySpace to be able to "reach" Micheal through virtual celebrities like Ricky Bobby. So Micheal is happy -- he has a celebrity buddy. MySpace is happy because they are monetizing their traffic. And News Corp are happy because Micheal and other 47,000 MySpacers will, no doubt, go see "Talladega Nights."

That's synergy, Web 2.0 style. The only problem is that it's all fake, all lies, all invention. Everyone wins except reality. Because it's one big lie.

Sorry Micheal, but Ricky Bobby doesn't really exist. He's a fake, a blow-up model. So my advice is to switch off your computer, get a life and some real friends and stop wasting your precious life on MySpace.