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MSN Banks On Third-Party Content

Microsoft is changing the content model for MSN as part of a larger site overhaul, winding down in-house production while ramping up deals with external providers.

“A lot of content partners that we’ve signed up for the new MSN never would have talked to us before, because they viewed us as competition,” says Ken Chang, commercial director for Microsoft’s online and advertising business in India, Korea and Southeast Asia.

“In India for instance, we’re launching with 30 local partners who never partnered with us before,” he adds. “Nevertheless, it’s definitely a competitive market for content.”

Microsoft has signed up more than 1,000 suppliers worldwide ahead of a formal relaunch within the next two months.

These include global brands such as AFP, CNN, New York Times and Reuters as well as domestic players for local sites such as Media Prima in Malaysia and GMA in the Philippines. 

Existing partnerships to jointly run local sites, with Nine Entertainment in Australia and MediaCorp in Singapore for example, will stay in place.

A Broader Mix

At the same time, the content mix is widening to fill out 10 specific verticals, such as automotive, health and money. Many MSN sites in Asia had traditionally focused on entertainment and lifestyle.

“In Singapore for instance, MediaCorp has great local content,” Chang says. “We are also looking at how we can complement that with global content, with more vertically focused content that maybe they won’t have through Channel News Asia or some of their other outlets.”

Much of the video on the redesigned site will be geared towards snacking, running at five minutes or less, although MSN will continue to carry long-form dramas and movies, Chang notes. These will be sourced by Microsoft directly as well as from existing broadcast partners.

“We will try to have a healthy mix of short-form and long-form,” Chang says. “It’s interesting the way we’ve been able to change behavior. In Singapore, it’s gone from a two-to-three minute average to up to 30, 35 minutes.”

Video will be offered free, monetized via pre-, mid- and post-roll ad slots, as well as companion display ads.

Some display inventory will be sold via auctions in Microsoft Advertising Exchange, a real-time marketplace that arrived in Asia earlier this year. Video will be traded directly for now, although that may change in the future.

The new MSN is due to launch in 57 markets worldwide within the next eight weeks, followed by more countries where there is limited or no MSN presence over the next 6-12 months.

The site, currently in beta, also includes category specific productivity tools, soon to be supported by mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows devices.

“We’re trying to be much more around content, but we are also injecting a lot of structured data and task completion that we don’t have today,” Chang tells Media Business Asia.

“The new MSN is quite a departure from the traditional portal model.”

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