Welcome to now

MSN UK has launched a host of new social features aligned with its 'best of now' marketing campaign

With a desire to offer audiences the latest update on a news story, outlets have worked to introduce many reporting techniques that enable them to bring the most recent events in real-time, from the liveblog to social media engagement.

ITV News, for example, recently reinvented its website to run a live stream format, bringing audiences the latest updates on a story, interspersed with images, video and social media updates.

In November last year online news and lifestyle portal MSN UK relaunched with a real focus on real-time, live reporting where possible. Now it has released a host of new social features that aim to bring the 'best of now' to its users on MSN.co.uk and also amplify stories and phrases trending on Twitter.

The latest launches are linked to a marketing campaign by MSN UK that aims to communicate to users what the brand is about and its role on the web, head of devices and social media Darren Waters told Journalism.co.uk.

"When we look across what we do now which is about writing original content, using content from premium partners, using cool tools from Bing and from social, our job is really to try and make sense of the web for people.

"We're in a fortunate position. We have journalists in a newsroom here writing a lot of original content each day. We've got access to tools like the 'demand dashboard', that allows us to see what's trending or about to trend on social and on Bing.

"We're able to move very quickly to identify what are the trending topics, what are the cool stories of the moment. So we feel our role as a website is to bring what we call the 'best of now' to people."

Original content and social conversations with #socialvoices

As part of the 'best of now' focus, the site has introduced a number of new social features. This includes a new series called 'social voices', which has seen MSN go to social media to seek out emerging or established writers "who cannot only respond quickly but can respond with a real sense of bite" to the big issues of the moment on MSN.co.uk and on Twitter.

"We use social to amplify that message and to generate debate. We've got a stable of writers, about 20 at the moment but we're going to expand over time, who we can approach when a story breaks or a news event is trending and they can respond very quickly to us, but also use social to help amplify that message.

We require all of our journalists on the series to go on to Twitter, to talk about what they're writing, use the hashtag #socialvoices to get into discussion and debate with the audience and to help stir things up to a degreeDarren Waters, MSN UK
"We require all of our journalists on the series to go on to Twitter, to talk about what they're writing, use the hashtag #socialvoices to get into discussion and debate with the audience and to help stir things up to a degree.

"We don't mind if people have controversial opinions, we want some people to feel inspired, we want some people to feel outraged, that's ok, as long as the people who write for us have something particular to say."

MSN is still actively recruiting for more participants to engage with the trending issues of the day through #socialvoices, Waters said, with those taking part getting paid for their journalism.

"We think it's a great way of bringing some distinctive new voices to the site with fresh content every day," he added.

Tweets published with the #socialvoices hashtag will also be pulled back onto the site.

Illustrating trends with social visualisations

Another new feature launched as part of the campaign is 'social visualisations', which are being used in a number of different ways.

One example can be found underneath each of MSN UK's trending blogs, which are visualisations showing the top three stories MSN UK has written about, how popular they are and the key and trending phrases around that topic in real-time.

Another variation of this tool is a visualisation showing trending phrases and topics around a single story.

This was showcased publicly for the first time this weekend with a visualisation placed underneath the Eurovision Contest liveblog.

MSN UK social visualisation

MSN UK will also be using this social visualisation module for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations on Sunday to visualise conversations on social media about the procession in real-time.

"We felt the great thing about social media is it's a very democratic medium, but a very noisy medium. You quickly drowned in all the tweets activity," Waters said.

As a result MSN is hoping these new visualisations will "bring some order and value to that noise".

The homepage has also seen the introduction of a 'happening now and next' section which will pull in tweets from the @MSNUK Twitter account to communicate to the audience what is going on in real-time across MSN UK.

MSN happening now

See the full marketing video below:

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