Everyone's Talking About Microsoft's 'Wonderwall'

Dennis Faas's picture

MSN (Microsoft Network) has launched a flashy celebrity gossip and news site called Wonderwall. Why, you ask? Well, as Microsoft sees it, web-based celebrity gossip is more popular than social networking, gaming or shopping.

According to research by Microsoft's button down experts, 84% of American Internet users visit a celebrity gossip site at least once a month. So the MSN team got together with BermanBraun Interactive -- a growing powerhouse in online entertainment -- to create a new site that attempts to give users that flipping-through-a-magazine feel. (Source: microsoft.com)

To accomplish that, Wonderwall takes a wide screen approach to web design, with a horizontal scroll bar halfway through the page. The majority of the site is covered in little 1" by 1" squares that combine to create larger photos -- the "wall" in Wonderwall. Below that is a headlines section for breaking news, popular celebrities and so on. Alex Blag, former editor of VH1's "Best Week Ever" blog, who oversees a 5-person team that puts together original articles and items pulled from the wire services, will run the new site.

MSN Pulls Out all the Stops

MSN is pulling out all the stops for Wonderwall; the company is pushing the new site across all MSN brands and plans to release a larger advertising campaign outside of the MSN environment. This will be important if Wonderwall is going to succeed, because the Internet already has its fair share of celebrity sites, including AOL's TMZ and superstar blogger Perez Hilton.

However, Wonderwall plans to distance itself from the pack. MSN General Manager Rob Bennett says the site will try to find a middle ground between the "catty, snarky almost to the point of disrespectful" tone on the one hand and the "puff piece, always-positive on celebrities" tone on the other. (Source: nwsource.com)

MSN has been struggling for years against the onslaught of its web portal rivals Google and Yahoo! However, a new celebrity site doesn't seem to be the right move to increase market share. What people want are applications and tools they can apply to their lives.

Google, for example, announced its Friend location service, Latitude, yesterday; improved Google Earth earlier in the week; and last month released a Mac version of its photo editing software, Picasa.

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