In a desperate attempt to shelter advertisers from its community, MySpace is creating walled gardens where advertisers can feel like they are advertising on MySpace, even though they’re really not.

To publicize the contest, Disney built its own “page” on MySpace and bought an ad on MySpace’s front page. But it steered clear of the profile pages created by MySpace’s nearly 85 million users — the popular but controversial part of the site where users post links to friends’ pages, list their likes and dislikes and display photos, sometimes including scenes of underage drinking and sexually suggestive material.

“We would never be on a personal profile,” says Jack Pan, vice president of marketing at Disney’s Buena Vista Pictures. “We want to be in the official areas.”

MySpace is already admitting that this is part of their utterly 1.0 strategy to turn themselves into a portal:

To draw in advertisers, MySpace has quietly begun building an array of new sections, highlighted on the front page, that deal with subjects ranging from books and movies to games, comedy and horoscopes. The areas, which contain articles written by editors and links to related blogs and groups elsewhere on MySpace, are meant to be “safe” for advertisers that want to appear on the site but don’t want to be associated with unsavory material.

The new sections are also part of a larger News Corp. effort to turn MySpace into a full-fledged portal that can compete with Yahoo Inc. Although News Corp. has been careful not to micromanage the wildly successful site, it has been quietly beefing up its features — adding, for example, video downloads and instant messaging — to make it look more like a regular portal.

So much for the 2.0 glories of social networking! This is such a sham, and users will see right through it.

Still, it isn’t clear how much attention MySpace users will pay to these advertiser-friendly areas. Many users spend most of their time on their own pages and those of their friends.

This lays bare the emptiness of all the MySpace hype. For USERS, who are the ones who matter in the business equation, it’s all about THEIR content. They don’t really care about wall garden content. That’s not why they use MySpace!

I love this phrase from the article: “the profile pages created by MySpace’s nearly 85 million users — the popular but controversial part of the site” — hello! That profile pages ARE the site! People don’t got to MySpace to see MySpace. They go to MySpace to see each other.

Maybe that’s why Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean page only has 70,864 friends out of 85 million users.

Pirates Friends

Is there value to this exposure on MySpace? Sure. But the walled garden approach is just one more factor that is sucking the cool out of MySpace.

Speaking of which, ValleyWag has a great send-up of MySpace’s new security measures. My favorites:

The annoying “punch the monkey” ads will now double as thumbprint-scan ID checks.

# Every user under 18 can still say they’re 20, and every user over 18 can still say they’re 14.

I’ll bet you the first thing that the folks who run MySpace do every morning when they wake up is check the traffic, hands trembling. As long as the traffic stays up, the house of cards will hang together. But as soon as there’s a sustained downward trend in the traffic, the whole thing will start to unwind.

MySpace June 20 2006 Pageviews

(I know I can’t conclude anything from this Alexa graph, but it’s still fun to look at.)