When was the last time you used an old-school Internet portal like Yahoo's homepage or MSN? Chances are, it's been a while. Now that more and more of us are getting our news from a wide variety of sources, the Internet portals that were once important in the 90s have made way for Flipboard, Zite, Twitter and Facebook. Microsoft is obviously quite aware of this trend and now tries to combat it with the launched of a new corner of its MSN portal called nowMSN. In Microsoft's words, "msnNOW tabs social media to find and explore the web's hottest trends in real-time."
The site is run by an editorial team that uses an in-house tool called the "Demand Dashboard" to find the hottest trending topics on the net and then curates them on the nowMSN homepage. Facebook, Twitter, Bing, and BreakingNews.com are among the service Microsoft is scanning for news to add to nowMSN. Every story on the site then also features the icons of the services where it was trending.
A Site for Info Snackers
Microsoft wants this to become a go-to page for "info snackers" and stories will have one hundred words or less. The reason for this, says Microsoft's Bob Visee, the general manager for MSN, is that "the demographic interested in these trends is very accustomed to ‘info snacking’ throughout the day. They’re used to this shortened language."
In some ways, the site feels a bit like BuzzFeed, but without the ambition to be more than just an aggregator of funny pictures and celebrity news.
Those of us who prefer long, thought-out stories like to bemoan this trend, but in terms of generating traffic for its portal, Microsoft is probably looking in the direction. I can't help but wonder whether completely breaking with the MSN name wouldn't have been a better idea, though, given that most Internet users probably associate MSN with a very different era of the web.