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Time Inc. now owns MySpace, more or less by accident

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The aging media giant got the faded social network as scraps in an ad tech deal

MySpace was once seen as the king of social media, a heavyweight with upstarts like Facebook nipping at its heels. But after being purchased by Rupert Murdoch, the site took a tailspin. Since then Justin Timberlake’s made an attempt to revive the service. Now, it’s Time Inc. that is aiming to resurrect MySpace — but not without just cause.

The relentless decline of the print industry is no secret, and the 94-year-old publishing house is far from immune. Despite being a top player in the media industry, Time Inc. swung from a large profit in 2014 to a huge $881 million loss this year. Even though the company attributed the bulk of the loss to its relocation from the Time & Life Building in New York — its headquarters since 1959 — to Lower Manhattan, there was also a 6.6 percent decline year over year in print and other ad sales.

MySpace hasn't made much news of late, but it can boost the bottom line for Time Inc. Believe it or not, the site still sees 50 million visitors every month. And one division in Time Inc. that saw real growth in revenue was digital ads. Home to brands like Time, People, Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly, Time Inc. wants to monetize its audience more effectively — the end goal is to convert eyeballs to moneybags. MySpace just happens to be a piece of the ad-tech colossus called Viant.

"People based" advertising

Founded in 1999, Viant holds the reins for several leading digital ad technology and media companies including Specific Media, Vindico, and Xumo. It touts itself as "one of the largest user databases, powering a comprehensive suite of advertising applications available on-demand, in the cloud."

"This acquisition is game changing for us," said Time Inc. chairman and CEO Joe Ripp. "Marketers are selecting media partners that have either data-driven capabilities or premium content; we will be able to deliver both in a single platform, and will stand apart from those that offer just one or the other."

Forget cookies. Marketers want to target registered accounts.

Viant is a "people-based" advertising technology company, a particularly odious bit of corporate speak that means it relies on a database of registered users to target ads, as opposed to cookies stored in your web browser that record your habits and preferences. A family of five might all use the same browser, for example, but are less likely to spend time logged into one another's registered accounts. Viant says it has accumulated a database of 1.2 billion registered accounts.

Will Time Inc. spend any time and money spiffing up MySpace for one more run at relevance in the world of social networking? Don’t get your hopes up. But hey, if you still use MySpace and enjoy pursuing People magazine online, more relevant ads are headed your way.