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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

April 2, 2007 at 11:55 AM

Extreme news from Yahoo! – the future of media?

First online news sites went after traditional news. Now they’re squaring off against the alternative press (and MTV).

Check out Underground, a new channel just launched by Yahoo! News.

It has news content – including a prominent list of offbeat stories – but it’s more like a mashup of Yahoo products presented in a social networking format with edgy graphics, tons of links and interactivity features. (It also takes the company’s punctuation fetish! to extreme levels.)

It’s what you get when a creative media company culls the most compelling features of top online destinations, assembles them in a catchy package targeting an ad-friendly demographic, then serves up a blend of community input and original, professional content.

For content, Underground revisits the roaming journalist thing that Yahoo tried two years ago with war correspondent Kevin Sites.

This time the talent’s Brad Miskell, a funkster exploring fringe culture and composing original music to go with his stories.

I think it’s great the company’s investing in content, instead of trying to get free content from users or scrape items from other sites. But I wonder how long Miskell or any one personality will keep people coming back, especially the fickle 14- to 28-year-olds they seem to be aiming for with Underground.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s MSNBC.com is trying to kick it up with its first branding campaign since the site launched in 1996.

The campaign includes print, online and TV ads highlighting its new tagline, “A Fuller Spectrum of News.”

It’s definitely going after a different audience than Underground.

As part of the marketing push, MSNBC.com is giving away a screensaver that displays headlines delivered by RSS.

It also hired Canadian marketing and game development firm Fuel Industries to create an online game called “NewsBreaker” that will also be played live with audiences in movie theaters in May and June in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and White Plains, NY.

“The goal of the game, launching on April 13, is to accumulate points and knowledge by capturing headlines broken out of the MSNBC.com spectrum of stories,” the release said.

The game might turn out to be cheesy and who knows what will happen with Underground, but why doesn’t the newspaper industry try things like that?

Comments | Topics: Digital media, Microsoft, Yahoo!

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