Re-acquisition of Bebo more fanfare than intent

July 10, 2013

The social networking site Bebo is all set for a revamp after its creators decided to buy it back for $1m – five years after selling it to AOL for $850m. But I think, this re-acquisition is better viewed as a bit of fun for the cash-rich owners than a serious attempt to revitalise the once-popular site’s fortunes.

bebo

In its heyday Bebo had 40m users and was known for high engagement, with users spending more than 40 minutes a day on the site. As NewsCorp had snapped up MySpace and Facebook was not for sale, that made Bebo a viable target for digital giants looking for a way into social networking.

And this isn’t the first time a social network has been ‘brought back’. In 2011 Specific Media and Justin Timberlake bought MySpace from NewsCorp amid much fanfare, but little if anything other than PR was put behind the acquisition. It’s possible Specific Media was hoping the lure of the Timberlake name alone would attract users back to MySpace, once the home of online music, but to date it does not seem to have succeeded.

The re-acquisition of Bebo could be a similarly fruitless investment. The site is likely to continue to aim itself at a younger demographic, but whether these users can be lured back from YouTube, Spotify, Facebook and other networks remains to be seen. The site’s owners also have the problematic issue of making the site profitable considering the restrictions around advertising to children.

This reacquisition is more likely to be a bit of fun for the site’s founders, who aren’t short of cash following the original sale of Bebo in 2008. A ‘test and learn’ approach could be applied to the site, with learnings for future products and services, but it’s unlikely Bebo itself will ever return to its glory days.

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