In our latest speaker Q&A we hear from Alastair Bruce. Alastair is senior product manager for MSN UK in charge of site production, development and innovation.
He heads up social media and UGC policy for the editorial team and in his previous five years at Microsoft has managed several of MSN’s content channels, including Money, Tech & Gadgets, Video and Travel.
Alastair will be taking part in our panel discussion on Paid-for content: Case studies on subscription services and paid access models that are working for online, specialist publishers and a look at the challenges and successes of making money from digital products.
What does you work at MSN involve on a day-to-day basis?
I lead site development, production, SEO and new product innovation on the MSN portal. My role involves researching and evangelising new story-telling processes and production methods, and scoping and managing the development of new products.
You were responsible for the development of MSN Local, what does the idea of local mean to an organisation like MSN?
Our mission is to inspire, connect and entertain and local information, and data and contacts are key to this. We aim to get people closer to the things that matter to them by providing services like MSN Local and effective local searches in Bing. The products can also help local businesses, from newspapers to plumbers, connect more with their audience.
You’ve also managed several MSN verticals, what are some of the best ways to build an audience around specialist areas?
Understand the audience and act on the understanding. Knowledge of the target market is important but is not enough. What is key is then providing the content and services that that audience want. You should be examining everything you do with the target consumer in mind and cut out everything that isn’t going to matter to them. Don’t patronize the audience and also don’t give them things you think they should like but actually they don’t. Technology for technology’s sake has been the downfall of many a business. Remember also, a larger audience is not always what you want (though sometimes bigger can be better). An engaged and loyal audience is where the pot of gold resides.
What will you be talking about at news:rewired?
Paywalls. My talk is a survey of how various businesses have introduced or are planning to introduce paywalls. The aim is to show the various ways businesses have chosen to implement them, and also how paywalls are often just one of many revenue-generating streams for businesses.
Do you think a mainstream news organisation’s online content can survive behind a paywall?
Yes. It’s like any other business model. Done well they can work. The same point I made about audience applies to paywalls. A business should take pains to understand the relevance of paywalls for its audience. They might not be relevant for all news organisations but no doubt they will (continue to) work for some.