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MySpace slashes head count by 30 percent

Once the leader in social networking, the News Corp. division has announced a "return to start-up culture" that involves cutting nearly a third of its U.S. staff.

Amid economic woes, stagnant growth, and a management shakeup, onetime social-networking pioneer MySpace has announced that it has cut its head count by slightly under 30 percent in what the company calls a "return to start-up culture." Well, that's a nice way to put it.

Reports had circulated that MySpace would be laying off nearly half its employees in a move that had delayed its relocation to a bigger office space in the Los Angeles area. With the layoffs, MySpace's full-time U.S. employee roster will be down to 1,000 people--which means somewhere just south of 500 jobs were cut.

MySpace said that the layoffs are evenly distributed across all U.S. divisions of the company. Since MySpace also operates a number of offices overseas, it's not yet clear how they were affected (if at all), and representatives declined comment as to whether international offices would be affected down the road. CNET News has heard rumors that there may be consolidation in some of MySpace's European offices, something that the company did late last year when it merged its Amsterdam and Berlin offices.

"Today the domestic restructure is the only info we can share," a MySpace representative said in a phone call Tuesday.

Owen Van Natta, CEO of the News Corp.-owned social site, said in a release: "Simply put, our staffing levels were bloated and hindered our ability to be an efficient and nimble team-oriented company. I understand that these changes are painful for many. They are also necessary for the long-term health and culture of MySpace. Our intent is to return to an environment of innovation that is centered on our user and our product."

Van Natta, the former chief operating officer at Facebook, was hired as CEO of MySpace late in April after a short stint at the head of start-up Project Playlist. Former CEO Chris DeWolfe had stepped down earlier that month, reportedly at the behest of Jonathan Miller, the new digital czar at News Corp. Executive shakeups at MySpacehad been happening sporadically for nearly a year at that point.

MySpace's new executive lineup gives it solid entertainment street cred: Van Natta was joined by former MTV digital exec Jason Hirschhorn and former AOLer Michael Jones. Late last year, another MTV digital-media executive, Courtney Holt, joined MySpace as the head of its new MySpace Music division.

A source with knowledge of the situation said that senior management was spared Tuesday's cuts.

Launching MySpace Music, which focuses on free streaming music supported by advertising, was a return to the company's roots: once a hub for indie band promotion and community, MySpace had grown massive before Facebook began to catch up to it in international and then U.S. traffic. Partnerships with the likes of Google and a prominent endorsement of the OpenSocial developer initiative didn't help it regain traction as a networking destination.

Holt told CNET News in March that MySpace Music's traffic was "huge." But record label executives--who are partners in the MySpace Music joint venture--reported dissatisfaction with the revenue it was generating.

Last update at 11:56 a.m. PT.