Microsoft Takes a Stab at News Gathering
Microsoft is moving deeper into a strategy of content generation as part of its launch of Windows 8. The company is planning to create a news organization that will provide MSN.com with a steady stream of original content.
As it releases its latest operating system designed to help it compete in the evolving mobile marketplace, the redesign of Microsoft's Internet news hub reveals another focus for the software giant. With more than 480 million visitors per month, MSN is an important component of Windows 8 and an opportunity for Microsoft to re-imagine its products and services.
The company, fresh off the sale of its 50 percent stake in MSNBC.com to NBCUniversal, is most likely looking to bring more content management in-house with this dramatic MSN makeover, said Anindya Ghose, associate professor at the NYU Stern School of Business.
"I believe that Microsoft's foray into news reflects the company's growing interest in creating its own content as opposed to just sourcing it from Reuters or the Associated Press," Ghose told TechNewsWorld. "This is consistent with its hiring last month of a former CBS executive to run a new studio creating original entertainment for the Xbox gaming console. Basically it is aiming to have a website with a uniform look across all its sections."
The content initiative is part of a larger overhaul of MSN, which will get a speedier and sleeker new look when the company's redesigned Windows 8 operating system launches later this month.
Windows 8 will be the most dramatic update of Windows in recent history. The company has been slowly releasing details about the revamped OS for about a year, with the finished product set to hit at the end of the month. This week's glimpse at a new MSN is the latest preview, with the company showing off a new, sleeker content hub.
The new MSN is optimized in speed and design for Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10, according to a company blog post announcing the redesign that claims the new page will load twice as fast as before. Its layout is synchronized with the Windows 8 'Metro' design, with a neat tile interface.
It's also meant to work efficiently on tablets and smartphones, which Microsoft has struggled with as the mobile landscape continues to evolve. The redesigned MSN includes an "app-like experience" that allows a user to swipe from article to article with a fluid gesture.
The new system will be available exclusively for Windows 8 users, and will be the default home page on many Windows 8 devices when a user upgrades to Internet Explorer 10.
However, even original content and a sleek new look might not be enough to help MSN compete in the saturated media field, said Michael Rappa, director of the Institute for Advanced Analytics at North Carolina State University.
"At best, this is a process of moving sideways," Rappa told TechNewsWorld. "They have to keep doing what they do, but it's not going to achieve the kind of breakthrough needed to give online news a lucrative and sustainable business model."
With so many choices on where to get news, video and other digital entertainment, MSN shouldn't focus on being a one-stop shop for all media content, said Vin Crosbie, managing partner at Digital Deliverance. Instead, he said it should look to a new business model that can answer consumer needs to pick out personalized content among the online entertainment surplus.
"Unless Microsoft can help MSN solve the problem of how to provide each individual consumer with what that news and entertainment that consumer specifically wants -- which is not what I understand Microsoft's plan to be, then such an alliance is moot today," he told TechNewsWorld.
The social aspect of news will also be critical in the evolving new media market going forward, said Rappa. For a new MSN to really make a splash, he said, Microsoft should focus on a model that would allow for media sharing.
"News is quickly becoming social." he said. "More and more people consume their news through what's shared among their friends and followers in social networks. This will have a profound impact on future business models in news media."