MySpace Is The Most Expensive Data Mining Project Ever

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Ross Levinsohn, President of Fox Interactive. Got that right. According to Levinsohn:

“The digital gold inside of MySpace wasn’t the number of users, but the information they’re providing, structured and unstructured data,” Levinsohn said–both demographic and psychographic data that Fox Interactive can use to suss out the brand preferences of young people on the Web.

Levinsohn said that the site isn’t intended to be like a portal, and that “it’s more about [users] presenting themselves to the world” by creatively expressing themselves through their MySpace profiles. “It’s important for us not to suppress that–not to push content,” he said.

So if I follow this latest contortion on the rationale for the $580-million-dollar purchase of MySpace, it’s all about data mining.

Which means that MySpace is officially the most expensive data mining project ever. For that price, they could have bough three market research companies. Or paid 1 million teenagers $500 to participate in focus groups.

But wait, what teenagers post on their MySpace pages is a “pure” reflection of their consumer habits, some will argue. Well, maybe, but I’d love to hear Levinsohn hold forth on exactly how they plan to data mine the chaotic slather of content on most MySpace pages.

It’s notable that the rationale for News Corp’s purchase of MySpace seems to be changing as often as the rationale for the Iraq war.

As for advertising on MySpace, which was supposed to be the big victory for News Corp:

More mainstream marketing on MySpace will be kept to the “well-lit” areas of the site, like the Books, Comedy, Film, and Games sections rather than on individual profile pages, which have less strict content controls–something many advertisers have expressed concerns about.

Sounds more like advertising will be roped off away from the action, like protesters at a Bush rally. And even if they could, most advertisers wouldn’t take the risk of appearing on individual pages anyway.

For the sake of their shareholders, I hope News Corp has a plan to turn all that MySpace “data” into dollars.