No, It's Not Game-Changing
Here's Henry and Aaron's coverage of Microsoft's announcement this morning. Although Henry says it won't work, I think the "knobs" (as they're affectionately known in-house thanks to a snarky Yahoo commenter) give way Microsoft too much credit for creativity and strategy here.
Search engines that reward people with prizes and cash have been tried before with the idea, "If you're searching anyway, why not search where you can make money?" Because I don't search to make money. I search to find information fast. A few pennies here or there isn't going to pay my mortgage. It's not enough of a value add to accept an inferior search engine (sorry, MSN still is. It pains me to say it, but Yahoo is too) or even enough to change basic customer habits. I don't even have ads on my blog (yet) because the take home would be so low, it wouldn't be worth even a marginal annoyance to my readers.
Similarly, there was a big debate back in 2006 about whether or not user generated content sites should share in advertising fees with their content creators. The most famous example was the smack-down between Jason Calacanis when he was running Netscape and Digg. Calacanis was actually offering substantial money to switch and few top Diggers did. I have long said the key to successful UGS sites is tapping into human needs like connecting with friends and validation. Those are so much more rewarding than cash. People use and love these sites because they are not work. I don't want to get paid by Facebook, I don't want to get paid by Yelp, I don't want to get paid by Digg. I want to use the sites because I love them and conversely I want the founders to have to WORK to retain me as a contributor. I'd rather them plow that money back into making the site better than give me a cut.
In short, this strategy is only new and innovative if you have a time machine. And it has almost never worked. Nice try though, Redmond!
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