MSNBC takes on Yahoo News

Emily Steel of The Wall Street Journal Online reports that "MSNBC.com, the No. 2-ranked news Web site behind Yahoo News, is starting its first branding ad campaign this week." Instead of positioning itself as a "breaking news" destination, as it once did, MSNBC.com is trying to highlight that it offers "a fuller spectrum of news."

The news battle is well worth fighting. Steel's article cites comScore Media Metrix data, which shows that almost 100 million people visited online news sites in February, up 12% from the year-earlier period. However, the chart at the bottom of her article also shows MSNBC.com's traffic fell 3% in February, while Yahoo News, CNN.com, FoxNews.com and AOL News each posted double-digit percentage gains. So, MSNBC.com has to overcome a big lead by Yahoo News as well as a lack of recent momentum.

As for the "fuller spectrum" claim, Google News now indexes 10,000 sources while Yahoo News indexes 7,000. While much of MSNBC.com's content comes from other outlets, the site plans to focus on increasing original video and reporting for the Web and its partnerships with news outlets such as NBC, Newsweek and the Washington Post. MSNBC.com's editorial staff of about 80 people will also be relocating from New Jersey to NBC News headquarters in New York to encourage more integration between the two organizations.

Will this help MSNBC.com give its brand name a clearer definition for consumers and draw more direct traffic to the site? As they say on TV, don't touch that dial. Film at 11.