CARLSBAD, Calif.--MySpace's problem is pretty simple, says former Facebook executive Owen Van Natta, who is now MySpace's CEO.
"If you don't continue to innovate...people are going to shift interest elsewhere," Van Natta said, appearing on stage at D: All Things Digital, along with with News Corp. digital chief (and former AOL executive) Jon Miller. "We need to continue to innovate a lot more rapidly than we have been."
Van Natta said that, on the plus side, MySpace is more open than a lot of its rivals.
"There's a lot of self-expression that is happening," he said. "We need to seize on that."
Kara Swisher asked Van Natta to compare Facebook and MySpace.
"I think they are both driving this notion of social activity on the Webl," he said, but adding there are fundamental differences, such as the role of music and self-expression on MySpace.
Swisher pressed them on whether MySpace can regain lost ground.
"Certainly we're not the darling of the press right now, that's pretty clear," Van Natta said. At the same time, he said the company still has a huge audience if it can deliver compelling features. ""We already have 130 million people that are coming to the site every day."
Miller said that the trick for companies coming from behind is to not focus on checking the boxes of things offered by competitors, but rather to figure out what you need to do to leapfrog those rivals.
Van Natta said that opportunity is part of what attracted him to the job.
"'When I look at MySpace there's just so much to build." Van Natta said, noting that in high school he used to always choose construction jobs because he likes "to build stuff."
Van Natta was asked whether the company's ad deal with Google has paid off. He said it had for them. As for Google, he said, "You'd have to ask Google."
But he said, long-term deals often take work to be mutually beneficial. "Good partners work together to close the gaps."