MSNBC.com to Launch NewsWare

MSNBC.com will launch on May 5 NewsWare, a new channel which will house a growing collection of experimental news-related tools and games designed to both engage the site’s audience and reach new readers.

The new hub, which will receive prominent positioning on the MSNBC.com home page, pulls together several previously launched content offerings–including the popular NewsBreaker game along with the NewsSkimmer screen saver. Launched last year, NewsBreaker mixes pong-esque game play with real breaking news headlines which are populated via MSNBC.com’ RSS feed. The game, which was produced in conjunction with the agency SS+K, averages 2,500 players a day who spend an average of 42 minutes per session.

Among the new offerings debuting on May 5 include the NewsScroller Widget, a customizable, portable news ticker which users can place on their own Web pages and social networking profiles. Also premiering is the Spectra Visual Newsreader, a slightly off-the-wall application through which news junkies can pre-select their favorite topics–say the 2008 presidential race, the NBA, and Diet & Nutrition–using a color coded RSS menu. Then, those users who employ Web cams can have Spectra read the actual colors of the clothes they are wearing, and then display headlines which correspond with those colors.

According to Catherine Captain, MSNBC.com’s vp of marketing, these sorts of experimental tools are craved by the site’s more passionate visitors, who have come to associate the news site with the unconventional. “This project was born out of our research on really understanding who are readers are,” she said. “They are news explorers. They like the the journey of discovering things (on our site) that they weren’t expecting. This reinforces our personality.”

Ultimately, said Captain, NewsWare should serve a dual purpose. “It’s content, but it’s marketing.”