Site attempts to catch up with Facebook

MySpace has a new friend-in-chief.

News Corp. has named former Facebook exec Owen Van Natta CEO of the social networking giant. The appointment comes on the heels of Wednesday’s ankling of MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe (Daily Variety, April 23). Van Natta is the first major hire made by News Corp.’s newly anointed digital czar, Jon Miller.

“Owen combines a deep understanding of social networking, a keen business sense and the operational experience to guide MySpace through its next phase of growth,” Miller said in announcing the appointment.

It’s no accident that News Corp. would look to an exec with Facebook experience to take the reins of MySpace. The upstart Facebook has stolen much of MySpace’s thunder during the past 18 months.

Facebook, founded in 2004, has jumped from an average of 36 million unique users in March 2008 to 61.2 million last month. MySpace’s user base remains a robust 130 million worldwide, but its monthly averages are declining slightly. Facebook also tops MySpace in the key measure of the amount of time users spend on the site.

Van Natta was previously chief revenue officer and veep of operations at Facebook, though most recently he was CEO of online music venture Playlist Inc.

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