Partnerships are very important. Especially for web companies. If Windows Live could buddy up with some other important sites/events it would definitely get at least some people to see Live Search. 2 main things in how M/WL will partner up with others is that 1). the sites uses the Live Search algorithm, and 2). adCenter ads. So here are some partnerships that MSN/Windows Live should consider:
- Digg – Digg is already essentially a user submitted news site for Linux/Apple/OpenSource fans. There is some Microsoft fans, but very little. There’s also other news besides Technology also. If Windows Live partnered with Digg they could possibly put in their own search algorithm for the site (Digg really needs a stronger search alogrithm, Live Search is good enough), adCenter ads (it amazes me that there’s always Google adSense, but where Microsoft’s adCenter?), and who knows what. Windows Live and Digg also has to make it clear that Windows Live being a partner of the site, won’t change anything. Like there won’t be any more Microsoft posts, or less Google and Apple posts. There won’t be any bias at all. Windows Live is simply just a partner, offering a search algorithm and ads for Digg. That’s all. In return, Windows Live might get some switchers. Maybe. Digg is a real tricky site. Like that HD-DVD fiasco, Windows Live would have to watch out.
- News sites – Like Digg, news sites are a heavy target Windows Live should go to. Fox News (not a real good news site) and Times Online (really good site) both use the Live Search algorithm. Well, getting Windows Live into news site is a pretty good target for Windows Live. Many, who have web search on their site, use Yahoo! a lot like The Guardian. Other use Google. News sites just use whatever’s handy. Maybe with a little money and promise, Windows Live would seem like a viable alternative.
- Retailers – Usually, for the most part, a retailer’s site sucks. That’s probaly the reason why people still don’t shop online all the time. Home Depot, and Abercrombie & Fitch are good sites. That’s about it. That I know of. So Windows Live should partner up with retailers with good sites. Not crappy ones, where there’s pop-ups, tricky UI, and frustrating online retail experience. Windows Live should aim for the best ones first.
- U.S. Olympic Team – Not just a partnership with in the site, but a real sponsor, for the U.S. team. I’m not sure if it should be MSN or Windows Live. Windows Live would just get the whole branding thing, and people just glancing at it. MSN could provide official Olympic content for its users, which would be cool. Or maybe both. There could be a dashed vertical line with a Windows Live logo on one side, and a MSN logo on the other. To show that they’re together on it, but still seperate sites. Windows Live gets the branding recognition, and maybe some switchers, and MSN could get to really put out some official content for the Olympics and get branding recognition. It would be really neat.
- Other popular sites – WL should just aim for about any popular site with users. Hopefully ones that aren’t Windows Live’s competitors. Like a gaming site, Major Legaue sites, Six Flags, rollerblading site, like any other site popular with many of the internet’s users.
- TreeHugger – Very key site. It’s pretty much for anybody who’s green, and is very popular. If MSN partnered with it, there could be a few MSN green articles on there (a few), adCenter ads, Windows Live search algorithm (instead of Google Custom Search), and maybe a MSN logo somewhere. Also, maybe it could help retrofit TreeHugger’s articles. They’re kind of styled sloppy, and commenting is kind of tricky. TreeHugger + MSN would really be something.
- U.S. Olympic Team – Similiar to what I just said above. AT&T and NBC are main contributors. And look at how sucessful they are.
- Major events – Live Earth really gave MSN a lot of traffic. 9 million at least. Other major events like the Olympics, World Cup, U.S. Major League titles, and all the kind of stuff. Sporting events are hot for MSN. Concerts are ok, but they’re more on the Zune side of stuff. Although there should be a dedicated section in MSN Music. Other events like Election Day, holidays, MSN has to be on top of that, or what kind of content site would they be?
- ESPN – A big one. Right now, they’re on a deal with FoxSports. FSN is ok, but most people would agree that ESPN covers a wide arrangement of sports than FSN does. FSN is good for local sports though. But ESPN is the main fish. If they partner with MSN that would be huge traffic. FoxSports is just too ugh for rigth now. Partner with ESPN and MSN will defintely have a big lure to their site.
- Amazon.com – Also a major player. Amazon.com is more popular with your casual users. It differs from eBay in that it’s not an auction site, but you can still buy some good stuff at good prices. So it’s basically a good online shopping site. I’d rather use Amazon.com than MSN Shopping. Actually, MSN Shopping should be Amazon.com. Get rid of MSN Shopping, and link it to Amazon.com instead. Amazon’s parent company, A9, already uses the Windows Live algorithm so obviously Windows Live and Amazon are kind of close already. Maybe the Windows Live team could webify Amazon.com up to web 2.0 standards. It’s a good site overall, but little fixes would be nice. Amazon.com is a major player MSN should consider.
- CNET Networks – I pretty much think that MSN should buy out CNET networks. CNET networks main draw is it’s tech site. That’s about it. They also own gamespot.com, MP3.com, TV.com, and ZDNET, pretty much they’re only main other players. I could see the CNET tech site moving into MSN Tech & Gadgets, gamespot.com moving into MSN Games (MSN really needs a true gaming network, instead of just some casual games. They need gaming news and tips!), MP3.com moving into MSN Music, TV.com moving into MSN TV (the site, not the failed product), and ZDNET can remain on its own. ZDNET is a tech site for IT geeks. It wouldn’t fit in MSN at all. So that’s pretty much how it could be divided up. I guess all the others could stay on their own. BNET (a site that deals with Business Management) could be tossed into MSN Money. That would really boost up MSN Traffic a whole lot. Of course, we’re talking about buying a whole company, not just a partnership. The transition has to be done right, where no employees don’t get laid-off right away, and that branding can be exchanged without confusing people. Buying CNET Networks would be a smart idea.
- IMDb – The Internet Movie Database. It’s popular because they have a whole database of movies. Pretty much. MSN could buy it out and put it into MSN Movies. The IMDb site is kind of cruddy though. You basically register (free), or you have little access to some stuff. It’s also kind of ugly. If MSN Movies snapped it up, they would also get higher traffic. I don’t see what’s wrong with it going into MSN Movies. MSN Movies has the nice look and UI plus million of visitors. IMDb has the tons of movie data. Put them together, and you really got something. It’s definitely something they should consider.
Basically, MSN needs to partner up with good content sites, that already well exist on their own. MSN needs to acquire good content if they’re a content site. Some sites are popular because they have acquried a good amount of data on specific things (like movies, TV shows, etc.) and MSN needs that too. So it’s best to buy them out, and have all that content on MSN to draw people over. MSN needs to be more professional in their content sites. Most of ‘their content’ is really dug up from other sites already, like CNET, Men’s Health, tons of them. MSN has to create its own identity and make their own stuff if they expect anyone to come. For the stuff that’s already existing and widely popular, MSN could partner up with it instead. For things that are popular, but the site not well liked/easy to migrate, should be bought by MSN. That’s key.
Windows Live has to make its brand ubiquitous to gather attention across the U.S. If people see it on more news sites, used as search algorithms on other popular sites, people will think that Windows Live Search must be good. To tell you the truth, it’s the same as other search engines, with the exception of Instant Answers. So make their branding stand out will attract more people.
All of these things I’m suggesting, (partnerships, buy-outs) are meant to help M/WL garner more traffic and get more people on to their side. It’s up to M/WL to make it right.