Microsoft + Netflix = LOVE

By Davis Freeberg

Last week Yahoo had confirmed that they had sent out a marketing survey asking their users what it would take for you to start using Yahoo as your primary search engine. Not to be outdone, Microsoft has now announced a program to encourage users to defect to their search engine instead.

Like Yahoo, they are offering some really great prizes, but the two that I’m most interested in is the one year subscription to Netflix and the ability to have MSN donate $10,000, $25,000 or $50,000 to a charity of the winner’s choosing. I’m not sure who I would donate the money to if I won, but with so many great causes out there, I think that it’s great that MSN is focusing on helping others with their program as opposed to just offering a cash prize. In some ways this is more powerful because if I know that the EFF or the Creative Commons could benefit, it might induce me to use the service more frequently. It also helps me associate the MSN brand with causes that I believe in.

When Yahoo! first announced their program, I was doubtful that I would be willing to give up Google for a $7 per month discount on my Netflix subscription, but unlike Yahoo’s program, MSN isn’t trying to get me to commit to using their engine full time, they are simply encouraging me to use it more often because each search could result in a prize. The goal is more about trying to get users to try out the service then to force them to commit to a long term relationship. Also unlike Yahoo!’s program, there won’t be onerous toolbars or member reward programs to sign up with. You simply search at and if you win then great and if not, you’re not left with Yahoo! bloatware left running on your system. Because they don’t have to compensate every user who takes advantage of the program, MSN is able to offer more substantial prizes then the Yahoo! program. Unlike Yahoo! though, there is no guarantee that you’ll end up being compensated for switching search engines.

As advertisers are increasingly moving away from tradional media and on to the internet we’ve seen search rates increase substantially. With a huge market at stake, we are sure to see the search engines become increasing competitive for traffic. MSN wouldn’t be the first one to offer this type of service, but it could still turn out to be a great promotion for the company.

Update: And already the search geeks seem to have cracked it.