The email sent to freelancers, attributed to Kent Laird, lead editor at MSN Entertainment, alluded to "a new VP overseeing all online services, including MSN, who has a vastly different vision for our Web site than anything in the past 15 years."
In July, Microsoft said that Qi Lu, who had been in charge of online services for four years, would take the lead on app and technologies related to productivity, communication and search. Unlike its portal rivals, MSN did not bother any major content announcements during the spring NewFront presentations, suggesting that the company was less and less concerned with that part of the business.
In keeping with Lu's change in focus, it's likely that Microsoft's advertising business will change as well. Still, it will probably entail some tweaks, as the ad business never factored into Microsoft's bottom line all that much, especially after it decided to sell off Razorfish to Publicis in 2009.
To be sure, MSN was always behind AOL and Yahoo, even in the days when it did stage large scale content plays like Wonderwall with the likes of Hollywood vets like Berman-Braun. But the efforts never got much traction. That's not to say that AOL and Yahoo set the world ablaze with their original content, but it has been a more significant part of their respective ad businesses.
"That partnership was put together to give media buyers ease-of-use at scale for tier-two, tier-three type inventory," AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said. "That's what that deal is continuing to do. I could be wrong, but I don't think anyone thought this was going to be any kind of game-changer."