Newsweek.com and MSNBC.com will continue to throw traffic to each other for another two years, in a deal that execs tell paidContent includes expanded editorial collaboration but no money—yet. It’s the latest evolution of a partnership that stretches back to the launch of Newsweek.MSNBC.com in 2000 and a major deal with WPNI, and made it through the start of Newsweek‘s online independence phase in 2007.
The renewal takes the two through mid-2011 and offers the potential for working together on sales, but nothing explicit. Instead, the focus is on branding, traffic and editorial collaboration in these days of stretched resources. Yes, recently redesigned Newsweek.com needs the traffic more than MSNBC, the leading news site with more than 37 million uniques, according to Nielsen, but Newsweek and its other Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO) siblings (not covered by this deal) add some breadth to the news site’s coverage.
—Branding: Newsweek.com will continue to feature MSNBC.com in its top navigation bar but, as has been the case, MSNBC.com will not single out Newsweek as a content partner in navigation. MSNBC.com Deputy Editor Russ Shaw says the site had a special Newsweek box several years ago, but found in testing that users were more likely to click on a headline with Newsweek at the front than to pay attention to a branded box. They are looking at options that will show users a glimpse of the content on Newsweek.com as you hover over a headline on MSNBC.com
—Driving traffic: Back when Newsweek.com went its own way in mid-2007, we reported that MSNBC.com was responsible for half of roughly half of the site’s 7.2 million monthly uniques. I don’t have the equivalent stat now but without the constant feed from MSNBC and the MSN firehose, Newsweek’s uniques for the first half of 2009 averaged 5.4 million for the first five months of ‘09, according to Nielsen NetView numbers from Newsweek; without two spikes in January and March, it’s closer to 4.5 million. (I mentioned that some independent sites like Compete show lower numbers and a declining trend; no answer to that yet.)
The magazine provided a couple of examples that show how powerful the relationship can be for the magazine site. When MSNBC.com picked up Newsweek‘s story on the death of Natasha Richardson as its lead slide on the homepage, it sent 2 million referrals to Newsweek.com, 74 percent of total site referrals (including search engine and direct traffic). That translated into 2.1 million page views that day—46 percent of the site’s page views. In early June, Newsweek got a double boost from MSNBC.com: pickups on two stories that accounted for more than 1.5 million referrals and 87 percent of the site’s page views.
—Editorial collaboration: “We’re going to find new ways to collaborate,” says Dan Mucha, VP of finance and development for MSNBC.com. Plans call for MSNBC to use more of Newsweek.com’s video, says Newsweek digital GM Geoff Reiss. “This round of negotiations afforded us the opportunity to start collaborating.” One possibility down the line is Newsweek video could appear in the MSNBC.com video player, which is skinned for various brands including the Today Show.
By Staci D. Kramer