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MySpace Grows Up

MySpace, the cyber home of countless teens and 20-somethings, is attracting more interest from an older crowd.

In fact, the News Corp. (NWS) site has recently experienced declines in its audience aged 12 to 17, 12 to 24 and 12 to 34, while seeing increases in the 21-to-34, 25-to-34, and 35-to-54 demographics, according to data from comScore Networks.

"A lot of people have a faulty perception about the MySpace audience,'' says Phil Carpenter, vice president of marketing of Simply Hired, the job-search engine that powers the newly launched MySpace careers section. "It's a lot more diverse than what people believe it to be.''

The change in audience demographics may be attributable to factors beyond MySpace's control, such as the fact that many college students take final exams in May and should in theory be studying instead of hanging out online. Some leveling off in younger users is also to be expected, given the explosive growth of the site, which launched in January 2004.

MySpace also is facing increased competition from Facebook, a rival social networking site. In April, Facebook, which started as a destination for college students, began allowing people with email addresses at certain companies to register for the service. Facebook had more than 14 million unique visitors in May, more than double from a year earlier. MySpace executives weren't available for comment, a spokeswoman says.

"Certainly, it opens up a new category of advertisers for them,'' says Denise Garcia, an analyst with WR Hambrecht, who doesn't follow News Corp. "Advertisers will take notice.''

Some already have, including Pepsi's Aquafina and Cingular Wireless. Banner ads for other Fortune 500 companies appear from time to time on the site as well those that may have been bought in bulk purchases through ad networks and not directly targeted for MySpace.

Attracting big-money advertisers hasn't always gone smoothly for MySpace, which News Corp. purchased for $580 million last year. Ads for some companies, including T-Mobile wireless, were inadvertently placed on promotional profiles of porn stars. T-Mobile says the problem, which was first reported by the blog Hollywood Wiretap , was fixed.

MySpace beefed up security measures amid criticism from government officials, including Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, that it hasn't done enough to protect underage users from online predators.

Plenty of companies are turning to MySpace to reach young people, whom advertisers are finding increasingly difficult to reach through more traditional media. There currently are "profiles'' on the site for a range of products from Burger King's "King'' mascot to the Toyota Yaris.

Still, News Corp. investors are eager to see what these older users are doing on MySpace. It will help the media company's bottom line if they are interested in doing more than just checking up on their kids.

To view Farnoosh Torabi video take on MySpace's growing demo, click here .

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