Microsoft News - Most Underrated Microsoft Product

Kedarnath Ravi
Mar 8 · 3 min read

Post based on tweetstorm from April 27, 2019

Microsoft News is one of the most underrated products that Microsoft makes. It supports quality journalism, and provides clean and consistent user experience from multiple news outlets. Microsoft paid publishers $600 million between 2014 and 2018. Microsoft News may have the answer on how to save journalism by providing an alternate monetization model for publishers.

The best feature by far is that it acts as a backdoor for paywall content, but would still pay the publisher. Some of the most popular and newsworthy content from publishers such as Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post, can be found here — in Microsoft News apps available on both iOS and Android or on the web at msn.com.

Here is an example how Microsoft enables access to paywall content: This Wall Street Journal article is paywall — https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-exploits-fleet-of-u-s-satellites-to-strengthen-police-and-military-power-11556031771

WSJ Article Twitter Card Screenshot
WSJ Article Twitter Card Screenshot
WSJ Article Twitter Card

This is available for free, here on MSN, and funding WSJ’s journalism https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/china-exploits-fleet-of-u-s-satellites-to-strengthen-police-and-military-power/ar-BBWdrFk

MSN Article Twitter Card Screenshot
MSN Article Twitter Card Screenshot
MSN Article Twitter Card

Microsoft News' publishers partnership also gets another positive network effect feature for its search engine - Bing. Search the headline of any paywall article - "China exploits fleet of U.S. satellites to strengthen police and military power"

Bing search screenshot
Bing search screenshot
Bing search results for headline

This is a perfect Win/Win/Win scenario, facilitated by Microsoft News product.

  • Microsoft News gets quality content without the expansive newsroom of reputed publishers
  • Publishers get paid
  • Users get clean, fast, consistent UX and sometimes free access to quality newsworthy and popular paywall content

Microsoft in fact gets an outsized benefit through Microsoft News.

  • Bing gets to one up Google in providing free access (and fund journalism) to paywall content
  • MSN with its reach and scale (mobile apps, Edge homepage, Windows 10) can better monetize the same content better than the publishers
  • Network effect leading to cross exposure of other Microsoft products (Bing/Microsoft Edge/MSN/Windows 10/Microsoft apps)

With Microsoft’s scale, it is probably generating better revenue than the publisher could itself for each syndicated article. It is unclear if Microsoft shares the revenue or pays a fixed price for each syndicated article from publishers.

Microsoft News operation may have just found a balance between funding journalism and making the public aware of the quality reporting of publishers.

  • License article (revenue share or fixed price)
  • Use scale arbitrage (MSN, Microsoft Edge, Windows 10 and Microsoft News apps) Vs Publisher site

Using MSN to bypass paywall is already being used as one of the methods on forums like Hacker News.

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