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MySpace CEO Van Natta Steps Down

Troubled social network MySpace is once again reshuffling its executive lineup, with chief executive Owen Van Natta stepping down after less than a year in the top spot.

News Corp., MySpace's corporate parent, said late Wednesday that Van Natta would leave the company, to be replaced by Mike Jones and Jason Hirschhorn, who will serve as co-presidents of the social network.

"Owen took on an incredible challenge in working to refocus and revitalize MySpace, and the business has shown very positive signs recently as a result of his dedicated work," Jon Miller, News Corp.'s chairman and CEO of digital media, said in a statement. "However, in talking to Owen about his priorities both personally and professionally going forward, we both agreed that it was best for him to step down at this time."

Van Natta, a veteran executive who had stints at Facebook and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), came to MySpace last April, initiating a series of moves aimed at reviving the sagging social network. Van Natta determined that MySpace was overstretched, describing its staffing levels as "bloated," and began a thorough reorganization that saw extensive layoffs and consolidation of its foreign offices, as well as the outsourcing of overseas advertising operations.

Those changes came as MySpace seemed to have entered a period of decline, having been eclipsed by Facebook, first in global visitors in 2008, then last May in domestic traffic.

In a joint statement, Jones and Hirschhorn, who also joined MySpace in April, said the "business is now pointed in the right direction," promising to "push MySpace closer to its potential as the place where people go to be discovered and to discover great content."

Jones was elevated to co-president from his previous role as MySpace's chief operating officer. Hirschhorn had served as chief product officer. The co-presidents will report to Miller.

Both Jones and Hirschhorn have extensive resumes in the tech sector. Jones had been something of a serial entrepreneur, founding businesses like Tsavo Media, an online content network, and Userplane, which provided a toolkit for developing social Web applications. AOL acquired Userplane in 2006, naming Jones senior vice president with a focus on monetizing social media.

Hirschhorn has previously served as president of Sling Media's entertainment group and chief digital officer at MTV Networks.

In addition to reining in staffing levels and foreign operations, the executives who arrived in April focused on developing MySpace's entertainment platform, which has become a popular hub for artists to promote their music, advertise upcoming shows and interact with fans.

MySpace purchased the social music service iLike in August, and has been seeking to expand other forms of entertainment content on the site, such as video and games.

The focus on entertainment has shown signs of success for MySpace, with traffic to its music site having increased 92 percent during 2009, according to online metrics firm comScore.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.