The new MSN Local Edition section provides local media and community news based on a user's ZIP code. And the site is moving towards offering longer-format video, rather than the few minutes people devote to YouTube, with content from MSNBC, FOX Sports, Hulu and Hearst.
Using the New MSN
On visiting the new home page, I was first struck by its cleaner look, with a larger expanse of white background rather than all of the blue framing in the current MSN.com. The page is much less deep than before, and it loads faster. The lead stories are more prominent. Gone are the sea of links at the top of the page, for things like Dating, Airfares, Horoscopes, Yellow Pages, and more. Six clear links at the top offer "News," "Entertainment," "Sports," "Money," "Lifestyle," and "More". Resting the mouse over any of these drops down several subcategory choices, such as MLB (Major League Baseball) for Sports, and Travel under Lifestyles – all the same links a
re there, but better organized.
Those top choices let you drill down into more specific topics, but below the middle of the page, you encounter seemingly redundant choices – "Latest," "MSNBC," "FOX Sports," "Celebs," "Finance," "Lifestyle," and "Games". Instead, these are tabs to the latest content from the source publications. Scrolling down reveals stock quotes, weather, and tabs from Local, Movies, Jobs, and Maps. In the lower center is Popular Searches (which the new Yahoo home page places way more prominently at the top), and the ability to create shopping-specific searches.
At the lower right, below a sizable display ad, is your mail and social networking control panel. The latter has three tabs for Windows Live, Facebook, and Twitter, and I was easily able to incorporate my Facebook updates into the module after granting a few permissions. The Windows Live stream, which you set up at live.com, can in turn incorporate many more social sources, such as Yelp, Flickr, and Pandora.
The local weather is handy to have, and three-hour and five-day forecasts are a click away. Clicking on Local news took me to a Local Edition page, with choices for news, weather, sports, movies & events, restaurants, gas & traffic, and maps pres
ented in the left-hand nav bar. Clicking on map searches took you to a separate Bing page; it would be nice to get Bing results integrated onto the MSN page. One nitpick: the preview site couldn't find any local events for my neighborhood, aside from movies and major sporting events across the river.