MSN Tempts Would-Be Searchers With Prizes

You’d think the lure of easy information and good search results would be enough to attract people to a search engine. But MSN is dangling prizes and charitable donations in front of would-be searchers, hoping that those who try its engine for the winnings might just hang around.

The company is kicking off a promotion called MSN Search and Win, which will reward random users who search on certain keywords over the course of the next several months. Prizes include gift certificates from American Express, Target, REI and Nike. Digital cameras and MP3 players are also on the prize list. Three winners each month will also get to choose charities to receive $10,000, $25,000 or $50,000 donations. The company details the promotion on a microsite, MSNSearchAndWin.com.

“Overall our goal is to get people to trial the service who currently aren’t using MSN Search,” said Kai Ichikawa, group product manager at MSN. Within search, the company would also like to expose people to images and local search features.

MSN is just the latest search engine to try incentivizing users. Amazon gives a discount to shoppers who also utilize its A9 search engine. Yahoo is also reported to be considering rewarding searchers for using its engine. All of these players are itching to catch up with Google, the leader of the pack.

The Microsoft property will spread the word about the promotion via banner ads on the MSN.com site. It’s also hoping charities who may receive the donations will spread the word via their own sites or email lists. MSN employees themselves have aggressively sent out emails informing friends and family of the promotion, though Ichikawa couldn’t say how many messages were sent out.

An offline element to the campaign, radio promotion, will occur in late February or early March in three “major markets,” Ichikawa said.

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