MSN pins hopes on revamp to boost traffic

MSN, the internet portal owned by Microsoft, is shifting its strategy to focus on exclusive editorial features and live news content as it looks to stay the homepage of choice for users and advertisers.

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The news-led revamp will place more focus on producing video, high-quality images and liveblogs in its “strength” categories – news, sport, entertainment, lifestyle and cars. Areas such as travel and technology will still be covered, but more editorial will be delivered via partnerships with brands rather than by MSN UK’s 70-strong news team.

Rival portal sites have also revamped their strategies in recent months to become more content-led to continue to attract users and advertisers. AOL acquired the Huffington Post news site for $315m (£199m) in February, while Yahoo! told Marketing Week earlier this year that it was looking to host more online video programmes.

The relaunch is being led by MSN UK’s executive producer Pete Clifton, who joined in May from the BBC where he was head of editorial development for multimedia journalism.

Clifton says he hopes the change in strategy will make the 36 million users that visit Microsoft sites every month explore more pages and visit it more often than they already do, which will provide a more engaged audience for advertisers.

“MSN is becoming the go-to place to plan your day, it’s the personal hub that springboards you to other places, like Hotmail and Twitter. But now we will respond quickly to current events and we’re going to be ahead of the game in reading social signals [which will dictate the news agenda],” Clifton adds.

Clifton says the relaunch is also set to see the roll out of a mobile app and a dedicated MSN area on Xbox Live, including exclusive videos and branded editorial, as he aims for the site’s content to be available on as many devices as possible.

MSN UK recently appointed former BBC Wales social media editor Darren Waters to run its enhanced devices and social media strategy.

The site is also looking to extend the amount of formats it offers to advertisers beyond traditional display and homepage takeovers, to include video, interactive and multi-platform ads across its properties.

“Over time we will move away from the heavy duty, non UI formats [like homepage takeovers], we want to offer richer ad formats that will produce better results for advertisers,” Clifton says.

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