The headlines are persistent and doom-laden: "Newspapers are dead". "Does digital mean the death of traditional broadcasting?" "The days of the portal are over". "Who will survive convergence?" Everyone from online services and telecoms companies to newspaper publishers and TV firms are now on a head-on collision course and the war cry of "content is king" is back. But now the content is being created by everyone from kids in their bedrooms to citizen reporters with mobile phone cameras.
Here at MSN, we have been debating content for a decade. We are, in our heart and soul, a software company. On the other hand, we make our money from advertising so we are a media company. In the past few years we have concentrated on key software services such as Messenger, Hotmail, Spaces and, increasingly, Search.
We have a global audience of more than 460 million every month. We owe them compelling content – from video to music to news to sport.
We are now increasing our investment in content and are keen to work with top partners as well as developing our own and building the "user generated" area into a cohesive whole.
In France, we have just launched an exclusive deal with Endemol France to bring its content to MSN Video. There will be new shows of Star Academy (the French version of Pop Idol) as well as archives going back five years including Loft Story – a Gallic Big Brother. In the first week, we had more than 2 million streams and 500,000 users accessing the service.
In the UK, we are building content across cars, money, news, sport and lifestyle. While it is clear that no one has yet "won" the entertainment sector; music, movies and showbiz news are all up for grabs and the appetite of the "Messenger Generation" in particular is huge.
One of our most recent deals is with Music Brigade – pop videos that can be downloaded instantly and viewed on a PC, mobile or music player. It is free and ad-funded. We are about to launch Soapbox on MSN Video, a service that enables consumers to share videos with the world.
We know we are operating in an ever-tougher and more competitive environment. Everyone believes they have the best content, but everyone is fighting to find their audience. The headlines are too negative; what MSN and its peers need to do is to make sure that advertisers are kept aware of the audience we have – one that is spending more and more time online.
Geoff Sutton is regional executive producer for MSN, EMEA