Microsoft announced the launch of Microsoft Start, a personalized news feed and collection of informational content that provides news from publishers and notifications based on interests that the user can tailor; it is available as a standalone website (available on Microsoft Edge and Chrome) and as a mobile app on android and iOS.
Microsoft has a long history of using content to drive engagement and monetization on their properties, already starting in 1995 when the MSN web portal was launched at the same time as Windows ’95.
MSN was the portal to Microsoft Internet services, also being the default home page for Internet Explorer and for signing in to Microsoft’s email clients, hence driving lots of traffic, revenue and strategic partnerships for the company.
In 2014, in a very daring move, Microsoft stopped all internal content production and started signing deals with publishers around the world, paying them to use their content.
That move has proved to be extremely beneficial for Microsoft, as it helped the company:
- Build strong and positive relations with big premium publishers who publically praised the model
- Get access to unlimited content, at no production cost, that could be used to drive engagement to their properties
- And most important, allowed the company to go completely free from all the copyright battles that Google and Facebook are facing, primary in Europe and Australia, and be able to make a public declaration of being on the side of the publishers, and even ready to step in and drive the search in Australia when Google threatened to block it.
There is no doubt that both Google and Microsoft have been paying big money to publishers: Google via Google News Initiative, News Showcase and other programmes, Microsoft on the other hand in a structured, contractual way with a clear model on how to remunerate them for their content.
There is no way of telling which of the two companies has paid more money, but one thing is for sure clear: Microsoft’s way has kept the company clear of copyright fines and legal procedures and allowed them to keep using content in order to enrich their offerings.
The Microsoft Start feed being available not only on PCs but also as an app for both Android and iOS phones is obviously trying to cover for the gap left by the depreciation of MSN apps, at the same time as Windows phones became history.