Full memo: Msnbc.com becomes NBCNews.com

It’s official. Microsoft has sold off its stake in msnbc.com, the Redmond-based online news venture that it has operated with NBCUniversal for the past 16 years. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but The New York Times reports that Microsoft could get up to $300 million for its 50 percent stake.

As part of the arrangement, the news site is being rebranded as NBCNews.com and will be aligned with NBC’s other media properties. The company’s news operation will shift to New York, but it plans to maintain some technical operations in the Seattle area by establishing what it calls the NBC News Innovation Center. The news operation employs about 300 people.

“We’ll continue to have a strong presence in Seattle,” said Vivian Schiller, chief digital officer at NBC News in an interview on NBCNews.com. “There’s true innovation going on there, and we take that seriously.”

The company plans to remain on the Microsoft campus temporarily, but will look for new space elsewhere in the city. Last week, we speculated that the news organization could possibly shift to the old Seattle P-I building where the company’s Newsvine unit is based.

The integration is expected to take up to two years, and is intended resolve some of the brand confusion that surrounded msnbc.com. Msnbc.com will relaunch next year, connecting its Web presence to the TV news network that shares the same name. (Microsoft divested itself of the TV network in 2005).

Microsoft, meanwhile, plans to staff up its own news efforts at MSN.com and possibly ink deals with other news networks for a relaunch later this year.

“We’re talking about using technology and using data to solve information delivery and news delivery in new and innovative ways,” MSN General Manager Bob Visse told NBCNews.com. “It’s really difficult for us to do that when we have an exclusive, single-source relationship with one news provider.”

Here’s a note posted on the site tonight by NBCNews.com Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Sizemore:

Dear readers, fans and friends,

For 16 years, it has been our privilege at msnbc.com to bring you one of America’s favorite sources for insightful and compelling news and information. We’ve been your source for breaking news, one-of-a-kind stories, segments from NBC News and MSNBC shows, and live video coverage of the most important news events of our time. Our team has never stopped working to satisfy your curiosity, whenever and wherever you are.

Today we’re taking on a new name — NBCNews.com. While our name is changing, our commitment is not. In fact, in the weeks and months ahead, we’ll be bringing you more of what you love today, and NBCNews.com will stay true to its mandate of delivering the news you need with the innovative spirit you’ve come to expect across all of our digital platforms. Over the years, we’ve won dozens of awards for our digital coverage, but the real reward has been serving you, our audience.

So while you’ll notice some changes to our logos and navigation, nothing’s going away.

In fact, there’s more to come: MSNBC TV will launch a new digital home in 2013, as an extension of the MSNBC TV on-air brand, creating in-depth content and a community for the passionate audiences of MSNBC programs. Until then, MSNBC TV’s digital content will continue to be available on this site, right where you’ve always found it.

We’re more excited than ever for the future of digital news and look forward to many more years of keeping you on the cutting edge. In the meantime, if you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you onFacebook and Twitter or email us .

Keep on keeping curious,

Jennifer Sizemore
Editor-in-Chief

(Note: GeekWire is a media partner of msnbc.com, which publishes selected GeekWire stories.)

  • Cho

    This is a win-win. Microsoft gets another windfall payout from NBC and news viewers don’t have to remember another banal five-letter acronym. We would prefer that the network simply rebrand as “NBC News Network” or perhaps a clever domain hack like “Progressive.ly” instead. I’d watch Progressive.ly.

    • guest

      Windfall payout? How much did MS invest in this over the past SIXTEEN years? More like just another failed Ballmer “investment”.

      • guest 2

        Gotta consider that $300mil is chump change for Microsoft.

  • DB

    File this under “sad.” Wasn’t that long ago that MSNBC.com was the #1 news site.

    • news reader

      I remember that. They even put it in their search bar, “search the #1 news site” or something like that.

      Most reports around the sale now rank them at #4. What happened?

  • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

    Looks like your prediction about keeping tech here in Seattle was on the mark John: nice call.

    All things considered, I think you have to call this the most successful of the tech-content pairings that came out of the mid/late 90′s. Other stories have talked about how this prompted the AOL-TimeWarner merger and how badly that went by comparison. That’s a good contrast to measure overall success.

    To be fair, I think part of the success here is that Microsoft was pretty hands-off, especially over the past few years. You didn’t see too much “Best viewed with IE on Windows” sorts of things on the site.

    What I’m most curious about moving forward though is the platform question. Near as I can discern, most of NBC’s properties run on Apache/Linux. Will they maintain two back-end platforms or will they consolidate?

    My biggest concern is that they’re going to tilt the online content to match the tilt the channel has taken on over the past couple of years. I class the cable channel as a biased counterpart to Fox news and liked that the online version seemed not so biased. I will be sad if that changes.

    • johnhcook

      My understanding is that the company plans to align more heavily on the news front with NBC News. A new Web site at msnbc.com will launch in the coming months that will align with the opinion-driven commentary and style of the cable channel.

      This was part of the brand confusion that they dealt with in the past, since msnbc.com was considered to be an offshoot of the cable channel with the same name.

      In terms of the platform integration, it will be interested to see how that plays out.

      • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

        Re: align with the opinion-driven commentary and style of the cable channel.

        I was afraid of that. It looks like it’s back to cnn.com for some semblance of actual journalism around news. *sigh*

        • johnhcook

          Just to be clear: The new msnbc.com will align with the TV network. The old msnbc.com, along with its editorial staff, moves over to NBCNews.com.

          • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

            Ah, gotcha. I’ll be looking over there then. What I liked about MSNBC.COM as an online news source was it had more text and depth than other “broadcast” news sites (except for CNN.COM).

            I’m a news snob, I admit. I think that video news just can’t get the depth of reporting that text news can. Your aQuantive story for instance just wouldn’t have worked if it was all video (in my opinion).

  • guest

    So MS initially invested $300 million to start this venture. And after sixteen years of additional investment they will receive just $300 million for their ownership share. Well played, Ballmer. Well played. No wonder MS stock hasn’t moved in a decade.

    • Foxtrot

      How much did they receive in revenue from MSNBC? They run a lot of banner ads, I’m told.

      • guest

        Unclear. Not enough to make a profit in the division overall though.

  • http://twitter.com/TweetingAC Andrew

    So does the cable television channel get rebranded as well? Won’t be referred to as MSNBC but NBC CABLE NEWS?

  • guest

    From headquarters to home of “some technical operations”? Ouch. If the Innovation Center is actually here two years from now, I’ll be surprised