MSN Relaunches With Focus On Social And Local
A year in the making, MSN Wednesday is expected to debut a refurbished home page that places the focus on Bing-powered search, local content, in-line video, and the social networks that are consuming an ever-greater share of consumers' digital lives.
Significantly, the Microsoft unit is also launching a new MSN Local Edition, which will exist as a stand-alone Web site, but also feature prominently on the relaunched MSN home page.
The renewed focus on local content resulted from internal MSN research, which found that such content -- from local news and events to weather and sports -- was "the Number 1 unmet need online," according to Lisa Gurry, senior director at MSN.
Likewise, consumers who were surveyed said they wanted less clutter and easier access to information and services they care about, which MSN took into consideration when redesigning its site.
Indeed, the new MSN home page features 50% fewer links than the previous home page, and a simplified navigation across news, entertainment, sports, money and lifestyle.
"That's what's most exciting for advertising -- the level of focus that we're giving their ads by streamlining and cleaning up the site," said Gurry. Also attractive to advertisers should be the site's likely ability to hold visitors' attention for longer periods of time, thanks to more relevant local and community-based content.
In what should be no surprise, Microsoft's recently launched search engine Bing is deeply integrated as the core search service throughout the home page. The new MSN Local Edition likewise combines media with Bing search, and provides access to real-time community news grouped by ZIP code.
A Windows Live "What's New" feature, meanwhile, aggregates up to 50 Web activities onto the new home page, including Yelp, Flickr, and Pandora.
At present, nearly 100 million U.S. Web surfers visit MSN on a monthly basis, while the portal added over 100 million new customers in the last year.
The new home page will begin rolling out today and will become widely available to U.S. customers early next year.