MSN Spaces: Microsoft Blogs for the Masses
Microsoft sees blogs for the masses (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
The company that helped push word-processing and graphical computing into the mainstream wants to do the same thing with weblogs. Microsoft Corp.’s MSN Internet division last night introduced a preliminary version of MSN Spaces, a new service that includes a tool for publishing weblogs, online journals commonly known as blogs. The tool is less flexible than many existing blog-publishing services, but it’s meant to be easier to use.
The service isn’t likely to appeal to hard-core bloggers, and some analysts have mixed feelings about its prospects. But MSN executives say the approach should boost the interest in weblog publishing well beyond techies and enthusiasts to a much broader base of users. “This is for the masses,” said Blake Irving, an MSN corporate vice president. He predicted that the new MSN Service will expand the blogging category “at a pace that has not been seen before.”
The service is free to the user, but it ties into Microsoft’s strategy of driving traffic to the broader range of MSN services, which make money from subscription and advertising revenues. As with other free MSN services, such as Hotmail, publishing via MSN Spaces requires registration, which lets Microsoft identify users in such a way that advertisers on MSN can target their ads more effectively, and MSN can collect more money from those advertisers.
Given that Google owns Blogger, which has hosted free blogging for years, it seems odd that Microsoft thinks there’s a niche to fill here. But Microsoft has, in many cases, managed to come exceedingly late to the table and still dominate a market segment. Their strategy makes some sense:
Microsoft is positioning MSN Spaces as more than a blogging tool. As its name implies, the service is meant to provide users with their own, easy-to-establish “space,” or site, on the Web. Apart from a section for a weblog, people can use the space to present slide shows of their personal photos or lists of their favorite books or music.
Microsoft is seeking to boost the interest in MSN Spaces by connecting it to two of its existing mass-market services, Hotmail and Messenger, which have 187 million and 145 million worldwide users, respectively.
Given that there are tens of thousands of blogs out there already, one would think blogs are already a mass medium. But, since most stories on blogging still feel a need to define the concept, there’s presumably still a vast audience left to grab.