Preview versions of the site became available at noon today (HK/Singapore time), including localized versions for Australia, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. The official launch will take place in the coming months, the company said.
MSN enjoys a global audience of 425 million, including 100 million in Asia, according to Microsoft.
Adam Anger, general manager for Asia Pacific at Microsoft Advertising, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that the company expects to deliver higher levels of user engagement and to give brands opportunities where they can be an "additive and super-relevant" part of the user experience.
MSN will work across devices (even iOS and Android devices through apps), and a single user ID will drive personalization not only on MSN but also across all of Microsoft's properties. This, coupled with significant ad-tech investments, will allow the company to offer brands exposure across its entire portfolio in a more cohesive way than before, and to deliver features such as multiscreen sequential messaging and frequency capping, Anger said.
The most obvious change for users will be a more diverse range of content sources. The company claims it has partnered with more than 1000 content producers, including CNN and The New York Times and, more relevant to Asia, Yomiuri Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun in Japan, The Hindustan Times and NDTV in India, CommonWealth Magazine Group in Taiwan, PCCW Media (Now) in Hong Kong, Nine Entertainment in Australia, The Nation in Thailand, The Philippine Star in the Philippines, The Malaysian Insider in Malaysia and The Jakarta Post in Indonesia.
In line with Microsoft's company-wide effort to focus on productivity under new CEO Satya Nadella, the site strives to boost utility and 'actionable' content, Anger said.
"It's really about taking what people have been accustomed to in the app world, a lot of task-completion scenarios, and combining that with what portals have always delivered, which is great information," he said. He cited the example of exporting a shopping list from a recipe page, adding that involvement in this kind of scenario also represents how a brand might engage its customers using the platform.
In an effort to keep users inside the environment, the site will also connect not only to Microsoft's own services (Outlook.com, OneNote, OneDrive, Xbox Music and Skype) but also to Twitter and Facebook.