Microsoft Vet Hopes to Make Online Storytelling Yahoo!'s Next Play

After slightly more than a decade as a Microsoft employee, Scott Moore, the general manager of MSN Programming, leaves the software behemoth for parts south. On May 2, the MSN vet will become vice president of content operations for Yahoo!'s fledgling Santa Monica, Calif.-based Media Group.

Tapped by former ABC programming honcho Lloyd Braun, Moore leaves the rainforests of the Northwest for sun-drenched so-Cal--representing almost as big a life change as the move to a different corporate culture--where he will develop content strategies for Yahoo! Most recently, he managed editorial, design, and product development for MSN Channels, MSNBC.com, MSN Video, and MSN Autos, and was instrumental in developing MSN's video service. Moore also served as president of MSNBC.com and publisher of Slate, the online magazine Microsoft sold to the Washington Post Co. earlier this year.

In his first and only interview since news of his move broke, Moore speaks to the OnlineMediaDaily about the new gig and the prospects for online storytelling.

OnlineMediaDaily: Why did you make the move? MSN has accelerated search initiatives and has momentum. Why now?

Moore: I was at Microsoft for ten and a half years. I felt like I'd accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish. There was an attraction about coming to work with Lloyd Braun. And the culture of the group is going to be much more of a media and entertainment culture than what I was used to at Microsoft, and I found that attractive. I look at Yahoo! from a technology standpoint, and it's incredibly impressive. The ad-serving and ad targeting technology is best in class. They've got a huge play in search. They've also made a real commitment to online media; that's where my personal passion lies and it's the stuff I get most excited about. They're really doubling down on the media side of the business.

OnlineMediaDaily: What's your new gig--what will you be doing?

Moore: I'll be responsible for managing a sizable chunk of the content that Yahoo! publishes. [Note: At the time of our interview, Moore wasn't sure which content areas would be reporting to him.] I'm sure I'll have some involvement in deal-making.

OnlineMediaDaily: What do you bring to Yahoo!?

Moore: I have a passion for the online publishing media, and I have a track record of being involved in some pretty interesting initiatives--Slate, Expedia, and MSNBC. I think a key thing is that I share a vision with Yahoo's leadership of what the future of the Internet looks like.

OnlineMediaDaily: What most excites you about the new job?

Moore: The thing I'm most excited about is the next phases of Internet development, which I believe will be about storytelling. You need good storytellers ... I don't think the Internet as a medium has come anywhere close to realizing its potential as a storytelling medium. The other key area that I'm really interested in is user-generated content, particularly blogs and user communities like Craigslist. The challenge is to figure out how to harness the massive creative energy represented by those things, and harness it in a way that allows the highest-quality content to rise to the top.

OnlineMediaDaily: Where is the storytelling going to come from? So far, there hasn't been much storytelling on the Web. The assumption is that Yahoo! will acquire original content by licensing it, buying small developers and animators, and partnering with production studios. There's been speculation that Yahoo! may even develop content on its own.

Moore: If you look at massive multi-player online role-playing games, there already is a ton of storytelling online. But these games require a lot of work from the players. They're kind of like actors in a drama that they make up as they go along. Most people won't work that hard.

I believe great ideas and execution are the keys to great storytelling. Great ideas don't need to be expensive to develop. The cost of production for the Internet is a fraction of the cost in any other medium. We're dealing with pixels and bandwidth, not film production and movie stars or ink, paper, and postage. It's a lot cheaper than television and film, and that's why I'm so optimistic. Flash adoption is ubiquitous. Bandwidth costs are going down. The creative palette has hugely expanded for professionally produced original content. When you add in the phenomenon of user-generated content--things like blogs, vlogs, photo-sharing, communities of interest, and the like--the medium is set to blossom.

OnlineMediaDaily: Yahoo! is known as a really great content aggregator that assembles content from various sources. How will it shift into the world of original content?

Moore: Well, I can't say exactly right now. The aggregation thing, though, is totally valid. Even though people say Yahoo! is an aggregator--as though that's a bad thing--the fact is, the audience is clicking on it. The audience has completely bought into the Yahoo! model. There's a great platform there to build on and to do more things.

I've studied Yahoo! for a long time. They have great depth of engagement with their audience. They dominate in share of minutes and page views per user in every single content category. In total minutes spent in news, sports, and finance, generally Yahoo! is No. 1. I can't even think of a segment where it isn't.

OnlineMediaDaily: What are your goals in the near-term?

Moore: I want to build on the fantastic strengths and the foundation that Yahoo! has already created in terms of online engagement and technology, and to begin this next generation, which to me, is about storytelling and community. I think Yahoo! is the best place to do that.