MySpace.com may take on an even bigger role in the presidential race than previously thought, and, by doing so, News Corp. is treading into territory most news organizations avoid.
Then again, most news organizations don't have a stake in the most popular social networking site. MySpace launched its Impact Channel in March to provide information about candidates and their views. Now its staff members are helping candidates build pages and facilitating fund raising. By doing so, the social networking business is putting its parent company, News Corp., to a unique position.
While the media generally steer clear of helping candidates, MySpace is planning a viral tool for campaign fund raising as well as best-practice standards for candidates' MySpace pages. The activities support campaigns, but, since help is equally available to all, the company could argue that it is behaving the same way major television networks do when they provide equal airtime.
Nevertheless, it is new for any branch of a news organization to provide a platform for specifically for fund raising. MySpace will soon provide all declared candidates who have set up MySpace pages with a click-on tool that allows visitors to pledge donations. The actual donations will be made on separate Web sites after users click through, but before jumping to the separate sites, users will indicate how much they plan to give.
That could put Fox News at a competitive advantage in terms of reporting the news. Since their own company is providing tools to donate and track donations, they could be the first to know how much MySpace visitors are giving to candidates.
MySpace representatives have said that the site is providing the service so every political candidate can reach out to MySpace users. The social networking site reports more than 100 million unique visitors every month. The new tools will empower users to create virtual storefronts and let their friends know who they support, how much they raised, and where to find more information.
MySpace recently pointed out third-party metrics that show most of its users are old enough to vote and have a high rate of engagement in civil and social activity online. Of the 65 million Americans visiting MySpace each month, more than 85% are of voting age, according to ComScore Media Metrics. Figures from Nielsen//NetRatings indicate that adult MySpace users are almost three times more likely than other Web users to interact online with a public official or candidate; 42% more likely to view political or policy videos online; and 35% more likely to research politics and campaign information online.
MySpace representatives did not respond to inquiries about whether the company will take any steps to level out the playing field or keep News Corp.'s news operations at arm's length from its social networking tools.