Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Musical Chairs at MSN: Here's a Partial Scorecard of What's What

Here’s part of an internal memo BoomTown obtained about some small, but interesting, changes at Microsoft’s MSN unit, sent out by the GM of its Global Media Group, Greg Nelson, which is under the leadership of–well, frankly–a confusing panoply of execs.

Essentially, Nelson now reports to Satya Nadella, SVP of the Search, Platform and Advertising Group (think engineering and search) and Erik Jorgensen, Corporate VP of MSN (think business and other stuff).

In addition and apropos of nothing, Yusuf Mehdi serves as SVP of the Online Audience Business and Brian McAndrews is SVP of the Advertiser & Publisher Group.

Also, there is a Windows Live group that does mail, communications and groups too, and a lot of other digital bosses too numerous to mention.

You can see why I have been haranguing Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer for a little digital clarity, especially around its consumer digital businesses and brands. But Microsoft–like a lot of tech-born businesses–loves to overdesign!

Ballmer has been searching for an overall head of that business to sort it all out since Kevin Johnson left in July, whose massive duties were divvied up.

While he has looked at a lot of execs from inside and outside the company, I recently posted that Ballmer’s latest quarry is former Yahoo tech star Qi Lu.

Only Ballmer knows for sure, many have told me, keeping his decision-making on the issue close to the vest.

But, as many insiders and outsiders familiar with the business have noted to me, whoever takes that role as its digital guru has some very hard decisions to make in all its arenas, from search to advertising to content.

There has been no share growth in search for Microsoft, for example, where archrival Google (GOOG) dominates, even as there have been billions of dollars of investment in data centers and engineers.

And it will fall to the person Ballmer ultimately selects as digital head to figure out what to do next.

Microsoft’s failed attempt to buy Yahoo (YHOO) was one way of dealing with the many issues Microsoft is facing, as well as its current interest in buying Yahoo’s search business.

In any case, here are some new changes at MSN, in Nelson’s words:

· Network Programming, led by Rob Bennett–This group will prioritize investments against Network priorities, shape audience strategy, set Network standards, and sponsor cross-network initiatives.

· Network Entry Points, led by Steve Cvengros–This group will focus on increasing exposure, distribution and discoverability of assets by optimizing and expanding entry points to the Network.

· Vertical Programming, led by Sandy Henson–This group will create content experiences to deeply engage the audience and grow Network value in vertical areas. All channels will move into this group.

· Monetization and Analytics, led by Dell Wilkinson–This group will focus on improving yield by making MSN easier for advertisers to buy and APS to sell through inventory insights and APS engagement.

· Chief of Staff, Eva Corets–This role is responsible for driving team processes and business rhythm, and assisting with prioritization of network projects and interaction with cross-division and cross-Microsoft teams.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald