On 17th November MSN UK launched a new look, shifting towards more real-time content and user engagement, as well as a cleaner layout. Poorna Shetty, Editor of MSN Lifestyle and Travel, was tasked with taking these changes on board, particularly the real-time content aspect, and curating expert content. Poorna says “for MSN Travel, this involved looking at the new layout templates and working out what sections should be cut, what should be given prominence, and integrating our search engine Bing. MSN Travel also has a great asset in Bing Attractions, which is a site that pulls together a broad range of attractions, and my job was to figure out how we could surface that on MSN Travel.”
MSN Travel’s new look aims to put the user first providing them with exactly what they want.That may be interesting travel features, keeping them updated via our social media outlets or inspiring their next holiday. We’ve only just launched, so it’s early days, but we’re very happy with the new look, the greater emphasis on good images and quicker page loading time.” Navigation has improved through the introduction of five core channels covering lifestyle, news, entertainment, sport and cars. “Keeping in line with the new strategy it was felt that Travel would sit better within the new Lifestyle hub. Lifestyle provides the perfect solution for both men and women, and it was felt that putting Travel here completed the user’s journey in a more streamlined way. A lot of the feedback has been about how much cleaner it looks layout-wise and how much easier it is to navigate.”
The site aims to inform and entertain British travellers. “Our motto is that we want to give you itchy feet, so a lot of the content on Travel is inspirational, hence the great images. But, we also like to add that quirky, off-beat element to our content, which is why you may see content such as Places that don’t want you to visit (but why you really should). Our audience tends to be affluent, around the mid-20s to 40s mark, and willing to spend money on adventure travel, good hotels, short breaks, long haul and spas.” For MSN UK, engagement with their audience is central to their new strategy. “We want interaction to take place between our users and the editors. On our portal, we’ve introduced a new function on our ‘latest’ content module feed which allows people to see what’s most popular on the site, which is dependent on what people are sharing and talking about. We’ve also got a great tool called Postbox, which enables our users to share their photos, depending on the theme/topic. For instance we ran a great one on News where we invited readers to post their pictures of Britain, called Best of Britain.”
So, how does MSN Travel aim to differentiate itself from other travel sites and publications? “We’ve got high editorial standards, we’re writing about what people want to know about, and we never compromise on our picture quality. We’ve just been nominated for two British Travel Awards – one for our blog written by Sarah Outen who’s currently in a kayak or on a bike somewhere in the middle of Japan, and the other for the overall site.” And Poorna believes being part of MSN has its benefits: “We can make sure our content is seen by an incredibly large audience.”
Making the Pitch: Tips & Advice for Pitching to MSN Travel:
“Personally, I find pitches land a bit better if they are a bit more personalised for the publication rather than a catch-all press release. I do understand the need for press releases, but think they should be used for the right purpose. For instance, it can be frustrating when they don’t actually say anything new. The best first contact is an email, and then followed up by a phonecall because I may have overlooked it.
“My advice for PRs would be: if you’re emailing a journalist about a property or something you are trying to promote, it really needs to be about something. For instance I can’t justify doing a feature on a property that has nothing new about it. Secondly, if you are emailing me with some exciting new development, make sure you have images to back it up. Thirdly, agree within your team who’s contacting who. Fourthly, it’s a lot more helpful if the PR has some solution or know-how about how stories work.”