Microsoft-owned MSN is going after traditional brand dollars with a new magazine-like content site called Glo, a women’s lifestyle venue produced in conjunction with Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S and BermanBraun.
The site, which focuses on beauty, style, relationships and other classic women’s magazine topics, takes a page from the previous MSN/BermanBraun’s collaboration Wonderwall, which is heavy on celebrity photography and employs a vertical navigation interface.
In fact, Glo looks very little like a typical link-heavy Web page. The site contains minimal text and offers lots of oversized photos and up-close product shots. And like a print product, Glo will publish a new issue five days a week, Monday through Friday. The site went live today with several pre-produced “back issues.”
According to Robin Domeniconi, vp, U.S. advertising sales, publishing and marketing at Microsoft, the venue aims to appeal to brands in the same way that magazine companies have targeted them for years: by selling emotional connections with users.
“After I had been at Microsoft for a while, I had an epiphany,” said Domeniconi, who previously was the publisher of Time Inc.’s Real Simple. “In all my years in print, we never talked about the pulp, or how the pages were produced. Why do we only talk about the technology in this business? The whole digital ad industry is centered on technologists and scientists. But we never talk about building the brand. It’s never about making emotional connections. It’s never been like print.”
Yet Glo’s ads are closer to full-page print ads than banners. The site does run traditional banners, but limits them to one per page. And within Glo’s photo galleries are full page-like ads from sponsors, which at launch include JC Penney, Vaseline and Fox’s Glee.
The site also navigates in a more visual-centric fashion, and users can scroll over images and jump to different galleries as they wish, or click on a more traditional navigation bar at the top of the page.
The idea, said Domeniconi, is to re-create the “curl up with a favorite magazine and flip through the photos” feel of titles like InStyle and Vogue. (In fact, the site will likely translate well to Apple’s new iPad). Users can also save and store images from each Glo issue in a virtual scrapbook.
“This is really about the user experience,” said Domeniconi. And about changing the way users view Web content, and maybe about the way advertisers view MSN. “Does this look like Microsoft?” she asked rhetorically.