Seriously, how many of you visit MSN these days other than MSNBC? Do you use them for search or even the homepage anymore? I doubt it. I can't tell you the last time, I even thought about searching there for a subject, finding content, or even when I've received traffic to this website from them.
They seem to be searching for a brand identity and while they have one at the desktop level, there seems to be no purpose to their website destinations. None and they are falling faster behind their major competitors and I won't even compare them too Google which is like comparing a major league pitcher with a single A rookie who can't find the plate with their 89 MPH fastball.
- Visit Yahoo these days and what screams to me is content and community. They still have their crown jewel which is Yahoo Finance and everything they do these days has a spin on embracing the social community. Yahoo Answers is the major player in community search having put Google's out to the scrap heap. And, while their search platform isn't Google, I get a fair amount of traffic from Yahoo search and will occasionally use it myself; plus, they do power a fair amount of major publisher's site search.
- AOL, who not that far in the past I left for dead, is really making a comeback. First, their Political Blog is actually really interesting and AOL IM is a must own for folks. Their local content is fairly useful and let's not forget Mapquest. Plus, the sales and account teams at AOL will bend over backwards to make their campaigns work.
- Then you have MSN which has MSNBC and nothing else. Search - never. Streaming video, sexy homepage, community - nope. Oh sure, their CPMs are way too high for what audience visits them, but that has stopped me from buying on them for years; one thing you learn about online advertising is that you can find the audience elsewhere and usually for cheaper rates.
Even in last week's Business Week, they painted a bleak outlook on MSN and MSN Search (or Windows Live Search or whatever it is called now) in the article called Where is Microsoft Search? You can read it for yourself, but quickly: search volume is heading south, change in management, confusing branding, and no real strategy for turning it around. Plus, to add insult, there was a blurb on political search in the same article called How to Read The Google Tea Leaves.
Sure, they just bought Tellme which actually fits in with their offline/desktop strategy, but I think the rumors of them looking to purchase DoubleClick for a couple of billion seems crazy. I just don't get that. MSN needs DoubleClicks's ad server or email push engine? Why? I've never been a big fan of DoubleClick and canceled two deals with them and I'm guessing their largest customer AOL would do the same if Microsoft bought them. MSN's biggest problem is not the advertising technology behind them, their biggest problem is to make MSN.com an internet destination for a specific target audience. Check out these demographics comparing AOL, Yahoo, Google, and MSN as reported by Quantcast.com (numbers compared versus the internet average = 100)
MSN has a higher skew towards the 55+ audience and has the lowest average of younger audience. AOL, not surprisingly has the highest % on the young end as well as a high % of the older audience. Google definitely skews toward the younger audience and has the lowest ratio of older users.
MSN needs more content and a reason to have people visit them. I don't have the time to read through their judgments over the years, but it seems to me that they have to figure out a way to leverage their desktop products better. The PC search on Windows sucks. Maybe instead of trying to battle Google on the internet maybe they should go back to their roots. Fix PC search and figure out a way to supplement that with online search results. Sure that sounds like going back to the future, but their older audience can use their help; heck, when I was looking for help on why my PC was acting funny today was when I really saw how broken they really are.
MSN.com not sure what I have in common with it anymore. Microsoft still powers my two laptops, a desktop, and my Treo 700W. I occasionally use Internet Explorer and spend a ton of time with Microsoft's Office Products. Those have to count for something and there are millions of people with that same profile plus Xbox owners. If I was at Microsoft strategy, I'd focus all of my energy at webifying those important contacts in every facet possible. You do a desktop search, you should also have a side-by-side online search results; not sure if that's illegal for them but if it is, they ought to try and fix that.
Google and the other usual cast of characters are also looking at buying DoubleClick. Personally, I don't get what the big deal is because I've personally found their technology behind other companies like Atlas and BlueStreak....