MSN to Roll Out Soapbox

NEW YORK MSN is jumping on the user-generated video bandwagon with Soapbox on MSN Video, a new Web platform designed for users to upload personal video clips.

Soapbox will be initially available by invitation only during a beta test period that extends through January or February 2007, according to MSN. Like YouTube, as well as the user-generated video hubs managed by Yahoo and Google, Soapbox helps users easily post whatever videos they’d like on the site, while also allowing searches of 15 content channels.

Visitors can also subscribe to video RSS feeds, post comments, share clips with friends, and even embed the Soapbox player onto their blogs or personal Web pages—a function that has proven popular among MySpace users.

Following the beta period, MSN said it would integrate the Soapbox platform throughout its network, including MSN Video, Windows Live Space and Windows Live Messenger.

MSN is somewhat late to the viral video phenomenon. Google Video debuted at the outset of this year to mixed reviews, while Yahoo Video launched in June. Most likely, the Microsoft-owned portal will attempt to use the size and popularity of MSN Video, one of the Web’s most trafficked video sites (reaching 11 million unique monthly users, according to MSN), to push users to Soapbox.

“Soapbox delivers on a critical component of the MSN growth strategy of deepening audience engagement by enabling people to participate in the content experience,” said Rob Bennett, general manager of entertainment and video services at MSN. “By adding a user-uploaded video service, we are rounding out our existing investments in licensed and original content on MSN Video.”

MSN is still figuring out how to make money on Soapbox, using the beta period to solicit user feedback on the site. According to an MSN representative, the company is “exploring several monetization options that complement the viewing experience in a non-intrusive manner and offer our brand partners the assurance that their message is being displayed next to the types of content they want.”