Kara Swisher

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Newly (Re-)Minted Microsoft–and Ex-Yahoo–Exec Scott Moore Speaks!

Just after he got the job 10 days ago, BoomTown got the chance to chitty-chat a bit with Scott Moore (pictured here), the former Yahoo media chief, who is returning to Microsoft, where he will lead online content efforts in the U.S for its MSN online service.

Apparently, you can go home again!

It’s a touché tale because it feels like Moore was pretty much rehired by MSN exec Greg Nelson (also in on the conversation with Moore) to give Yahoo a wallop where it really will hurt–its powerful content business, one of Yahoo’s few bright spots.

And to add another layer of irony, Moore replaced Jeff Dossett, who replaced Moore at Yahoo (YHOO) after Moore suddenly left the troubled online company late last year.

In our conversation, Nelson began talking first about the continued commitment of Microsoft (MSFT) to compete in the online media business despite its lackluster record over the years.

“We are making a big bet with Scott because he understands the key themes for us, which is that this is a scale business,” said Nelson (pictured here). “We all have a conviction that Microsoft has what it takes to compete in that arena.”

Moore agreed, noting that “very few companies have the scale that Microsoft has and you look at the size of the audience and the tools and great assets we can weave in and you realize the possibilities as the market is changing.”

But that scale has not helped Microsoft so far, although Moore argued that it still has a chance as the online content landscape changes.

By change, Moore posits that the Internet is now shifting from being a place to get news and information to becoming a primary entertainment medium.

“You can see that phenomena is somewhat in social media, the idea that it is not only about entertainment, but about making all kinds of choices through the Internet,” he said.

Because of Microsoft’s large audience, which still lags behind Yahoo and Time Warner (TWX) online service AOL, Moore thinks it has the opportunity to leverage the distribution strength with a variety of entertainment partners.

But he said he is not ruling out more original content from Microsoft.

“Most of it is still aggregated content, but MSN also has to think about having stuff no one else has,” Moore said. “You can make it, license it or partner.”

Both Moore and Nelson said it is important that the small amount of premium content is special, such as Microsoft’s deal with NBC during the Olympics.

“It’s a pyramid with the original and premium content on top,” said Nelson.

That does not mean going too far afield though. “I think we have to choose a spot where we already have a large audience and then program to keep them coming back,” said Moore. “It’s not doing something out of whole cloth–that’s not the idea.”

That’s presumably the exact idea behind MSN’s launch of Wonderwall last week, a slick, standalone celebrity Web site (pictured here), designed to compete with AOL and Yahoo offerings.

Moore, who was involved with the creation of Yahoo’s top-ranked omg! pop culture site, was not part of the Wonderwall effort and he did try to tamp down the idea of going head-to-head with former colleagues at Yahoo.

“I have a lot of friends and a lot of great memories there, but it is also great to go back to my roots,” said Moore.

Nonetheless, he still managed to add that he wanted to get MSN sites to top status as soon as possible. “When I got to Yahoo it was not No. 1,” he said.

Nelson said Microsoft was committed to content, even after a history of less-than-stellar results.

“Ideas are free, and so it is all about execution,” said Nelson. “What is our level of conviction? How committed is Microsoft? Very committed, because it’s the future of the company.”


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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”