MySpace , the wildly popular but so far unprofitable News Corp. ( NWS) Web site, will double its sales force this year.
The move will bring the sales force of MySpace, which News Corp. bought last year for $588 million, to about 30, says Michael Barrett, the chief revenue officer for News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media. The new hires have been "specifically budgeted," he says in an interview. Bringing more advertising dollars into MySpace without alienating its more than 50 million unique visitors is going to be tricky, but it's a gamble that New York-based News Corp. needs to make. The site is the focal point of Rupert Murdoch's Web strategy -- a strategy that has been a hit with investors this year. Last week, News Corp. unveiled the first leg of its effort to make MySpace pay off, in a $900 million ad linkup with Google ( GOOG). Now, advertisers say the company is stepping up its efforts to convince big clients using MySpace's free Web pages, known as profiles, to become paying customers as well. "MySpace has started to reach out to companies that are setting up commercial pages on the site, encouraging them to reach some kind of financial agreement and forgo the free ride," says Jeff Lanctot of aQuantive's ( AQNT) Avenue A|Razorfish online advertising agency. "While this could include paying to have the page up, I think buying an ad package to support the commercial page is also a reasonable solution."