MSN’s new search product – KUMO

Ben Shepherd writes: So MSN is rebranding/rebadging/changing Live Search and calling it Kumo.

I haven’t used the product yet but can’t help but think that Australia will be a key market for them in terms of getting insights and also in generating commercial traction.

Right now MSN sells search results through Yahoo Search Marketing. Personally, this relationship does nothing for MSN whatsoever and assists Yahoo! greatly. You would have to assume this relationship will cease sooner rather than later once MSN give search a bit of a go.

Why I think MSN locally could give search a decent nudge in AU is due to the power of ninemsn.

I don’t mean that they can get the product in front of 8m+ Australians relatively easily (which they can) … it’s more about the insight and knowledge ninemsn has about their audience in Australia and how powerful this could be when merged with a search product.

I guess this is the key to evolving the search product and also the search advertising product – how much knowledge you have about the user.

MSN here is in a good position. They have strong demographic and location data through their registered services – Messenger and Hotmail. They also know (or should know) what content these people are interested in as they have a number of competitive content brands.

Adding those 2 elements plus information gather through search habits would make for some powerful user information … the key is how it is used.

This is where – in my opinion – MSN has an advantage over Yahoo locally as they have more users and most importantly, a lot more registered users. So they have a bigger potential base of users plus also richer insights in terms of interests and also personal info.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think MSN can even remotely challenge Google as a market leader … but they do have the potential to peg back some share … at least take their market share from 3% to 5% or even 10%.

Remember, the search market here is worth around $900m so these small % gains are worth a lot of money. In this case … if ninemsn took 5% of the search market it could be worth around $40m to them. This is big – generating an extra $4m in display advertising requires a lot of work … so it shows the benefits of getting search right.

It will be very interesting to see how MSN handle search locally in 2009 with Joe Pollard at the helm and a new, improved product to take to market.

Another question might be, how will they sell it? Could ninemsn nail selling search and display through the one sales team. Or … could they sell performance, brand and search through the one group? And how does DrivePM fit into this?

I guess that’s a question for Kerry McCabe and Liam Walsh …


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