Entertainment Takes Center Stage on Bing

Microsoft has introduced several changes to the design and content of its entertainment results on Bing, including ways to link searches to the content they’re looking for more directly.

The changes are ultimately intended to make this portion of its search engine far stickier. That, of course, is hardly the traditional goal of a search engine, which by definition serves as a temporary conduit between content and consumer.

However, creating stickiness — and possibly some new revenue streams — appears to be the strategy that Microsoft has adopted with Bing as it continues to build incremental traffic, explained Rick Munarriz, senior technology analyst at The Motley Fool.

“The overall impression of the changes is that this is very much an AOLish move on Microsoft’s part,” he told the E-Commerce Times, referring to AOL’s portal-like approach to the Internet.

In short, Bing wants users to view its Entertainment section as a trusted source to find information about movies, TV shows, music or casual games, as well as a spot to watch, play or listen to that content, according to Yusuf Mehdi, Bing’s senior vice president. Search queries recognized as titles of popular entertainment content will result in ways to listen to streamed music or watch previews.

Bing has added an e-commerce element to many of these new features, giving consumers the ability to purchase the content they have found on the page from providers both inside and outside of Microsoft.

What It Offers

For example, Bing has added a lyrics search feature and the ability to listen to full-length song streaming for more than 5 million songs through Microsoft’s Zune music service.

Consumers get a single play of every song in the catalog. “When it’s time to buy, we’ll offer you the ability to purchase and download songs from Zune, iTunes and Amazon.com MP3,” according to Mehdi.

The page also now offers detailed information on more than 35,000 games, including reviews, cheats and walkthroughs. Nearly 100 popular casual games can be played within Bing along with social features that allow players to invite friends to the game.

The page has also gathered a collection of 1,500 full-length TV episodes to watch online. For movie lovers, it offers up reviews and real-time Twitter and Facebook sentiments. For those who want to catch a show in a theater, it offers traffic information as well as directions, nearby restaurants and parking information from Bing Maps.

“It’s the four horsemen of entertainment,” The Motley Fool’s Munarriz commented.

That Bing would move to a portal approach so early in its development is interesting but also a reality of the marketplace, he said.

Bing is never going to catch up with Google barring some completely unforeseen development with Google, Munarriz noted. “Bing has been positioning itself as a catch-all for search content from the beginning and now is developing this model even more.”

The move might also help with advertising revenues, he added, as such content tends to favor display advertising.

Been There, Seen That?

In many ways this move to a portal model is a replay of what Yahoo attempted when it lost its lead in the search market to Google several years ago, said Stephen Woessner, business education outreach coordinator at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse Small Business Development Center.

Google’s response was to maintain a relentless focus on providing the best search platform, which is why Google still owns the majority of the search market, he said. “If Bing wants to displace Google in the search market, they need to focus on being the best search engine and not a multimedia company. And search is what powers the advertising model.”

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