Microsoft rebuilds MSN to lure brands onto mobile

Microsoft has again rebuilt MSN from the ground up in a bid to boost the site's popularity with advertisers on desktop and mobile.

MSN: site revamp could appeal to brands
MSN: site revamp could appeal to brands

The internet portal, which competes with similar homepage sites from Yahoo and AOL, has rebooted several times in the past few years, most recently focusing on news.

The latest redesign shows MSN more tightly integrated with Microsoft as a brand, with a new "me bar" running across the top that shows off online services such as the rebranded Outlook.com, Skype and the new Microsoft Office for web. The bar also gives greater prominence to Microsoft’s in-house search engine Bing, and popular third-party services such as Twitter.

The idea is to reincarnate MSN as a prime destination for users throughout their day on desktop and mobile.

It’s a fundamental change in the business, because MSN is now really integrating as part of Microsoft as a whole

MSN has made a major push on the content side, partnering with more than 1,000 brands to pull in a huge range of information such as live share prices and global news. Global partners include The Guardian, Telegraph, The New York Times and CNN, among many others.

The brand has also has negotiated revenue-share deals in exchange for hosting partner content on its own site – likely meaning visitors will stay longer on MSN rather than clicking out to news sites.

The site is available in beta from today, and will roll out commercially in the coming months. It launches with a number of ad partners, though MSN wouldn’t give names.

Steve Lynas, MSN regional director, said: "It’s a fundamental change in the business, because MSN is now really integrating as part of Microsoft as a whole.

"We’re uniting a new product with all of Microsoft’s services," he told Marketing.

This is the first time the MSN site will be available on all platforms, including iOS and mobile.

Owen Sagness, Microsoft UK’s general manager for advertising and online, said the update means brands will be able to "tell a story sequentially" as a user interacts with MSN through the day on different devices.

"Every CMO I’ve spoken to in the last year recognises that the world has changed in terms of device usage," he told Marketing. "All marketers want to reach their audience across all devices."

According to Microsoft, MSN has almost 425 million unique visitors a month.