NY Times merging with MSNBC?

Ramblings on a Thurs afternoon…..

In an attempt to make a mountain out of an ant hill…I saw that Thomas Friedman is now going to be supplying content and commentary to MSNBC

The Hollywood Reporter stated “[Thom’s] best-selling book “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century” will provide the theme for a new online environment hosted by the news Web site and integrated with sister portal MSN. It will feature video interviews with newsmakers conducted by the author. Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates is set to be the first guest when the site launches in September.”

Back when CBS MarketWatch was looking for third party content, in the form of investment newsletters, we partnered with Mark Hulbert for content.  We eventually ended up buying his newsletter business after the test proved successful and we realized demand was high for this type of offering.  Does MSNBC want to provide additional “proprietary” content? Is this a test to flesh out the demand for an even bigger partnering with a big brand like TF?  Does it bode for a merger of the two?

Probably not.  But fun to speculate? 

MSNBC presumably is trying to figure out how keep going head to head with Google news while continuing the battle with Yahoo.  MSN’s recent press has been as bad as Yahoo’s with their ever shifting digital strategies, re-orgs and management changes.  Both have sizeable audiences, great auxillary tools (email, chat, etc).  The question seems to be…(1) how do they lever up on content to make it a must read ” a la the NYT” and (2) how not to buy a stranded asset (a newspaper) but secure the award winning content?

An online entity like MSNBC, MSN Money, Yahoo, etc buying content has its pros and cons…enough has been written about that type of combo that I wont pontificate.  A few underlying questions still remain: (a) do brands matter in this world of infinite possibilities, blogs, etc, and (b) do the portals need to build out proprietary content in a meaningful way to ensure control, access and create friction and reasons to continue visiting their sites, vs just using MySpace or Facebook as the entry point?  Anyone want to wager with a five year bet and we can see how it all plays out?  

Maybe a three way merger with Google as the search, Yahoo as the portal and NYT as the content provider?  Throw in a film production company and you compete against the likes of Time Warner?


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