MSN launched its sustainability focused content portal, MSN Green, this week and the announcement looked good enough. MSN will distribute videos and articles on environmental news from a wide variety of partner sites including heavy hitters TreeHugger and Grist.org.
Now that the site has been live for a few days, it's clear that MSN Green is nothing more than an object lesson. If you think that big company acquisitions of small technology innovators lead to stagnation - wait until you see what a content partnership like this looks like.
MSN Green is a classic example of cynical crap; a super low-investment way for big media to sell ads against ostensibly important content.
How is that the case? Here are just a few of the ways.
- There's no mention of Green on the MSN front page. There's a whole lot of links to a whole lot of content projects there - but nothing pointing the bulk of MSN traffic to the option of learning about this oh-so-important initiative. The Green page itself is all about links to other MSN content - it's enough to make you think that Green is nothing more than a niche marketing tactic to drive marginal eco-engaged yuppies to the entertainment and financial news sections of MSN. Of course this is no surprise, but then it's no surprise that the whole project is a joke, either, is it?
- Less than 25% of the content on MSN Green is from independent environmental specialists. There is no shortage of content available, but these celebrated partnerships are really just window dressing while MSN selects a handful of old, politically safe content from partners that publish hundreds of new articles every day. Ask anyone who's been acquired in a content deal and they'll tell you it's an awful struggle to get any of the formerly grass-roots content featured meaningfully on a big media portal - even if that portal paid a whole lot of money for the content. I imagine this distribution deal is one the independent partners will just try not to let themselves think about too often, until they need to pull it out for bragging rights or to secure similar deals.
- The content hasn't changed since the site launched three days ago! The content could never change and Chevy would likely keep renewing that huge ad on the site. Mission accomplished. What a joke. It's a good thing this is the only MSN site I've been able to find that doesn't offer an RSS feed - because nothing would likely ever come through it.
- The videos section of the site is almost entirely populated by licensed VideoJug content. VideoJug is a great site for evergreen tutorials, but there's a world full of timely environmental news video available, even from existing partners. Perhaps this way no one will notice when the the video section doesn't change for 6 months or a year, though.
Yahoo! at least pledged to go carbon neutral when launching their environmental portal back in May (see our review). It was very nice of them to take time out of their busy schedule turning reporters over to the Chinese government for decades of imprisonment in order to launch a green portal and go carbon neutral.
Moral of the story? At least some of these deals, but MSN Green at the very least, are worthy of nothing but disdain. If ecological crisis were no big deal then this wouldn't be either. As it is, this kind of big media eco-cynicism is strikingly offensive.