MSNBC's Hidden Mobile Gems

 Forbes on MSNBC ImageMSNBC, the cable TV news channel operated by Microsoft and NBC has a rather good mobile web site. There is no dedicated URL for the mobile site as far as I know, but if you go to with almost any mobile browser, the site's browser detection kicks in to serve mobile pages. It's a typical multi section news portal much in the style of CNN's and the BBC's mobile sites. Unlike those two which use in house reporters extensively, much of MSNBC's content is from the wire services or other publishers like Business Week, Forbes and the National Geographic.

MSNBC has a much more content than you would think from looking at the front page which lists only nine sections (Business, Sports, U.S.News, World News, Politics, Tech & Science, Entertainment, Health, Travel). There are actually a number of additional mobile sections which are more or less hidden. When you click of a story about the situation in Palestine you find that story is part of a Middle East and North Africa page which has links to five other stories focused on that part of the world. The sports page currently has a link to only one NFL related article but when you follow that link you find yourself in an extensive NFL section with 15 more pro football articles. These hidden sections are especially evident in the business pages. I found dedicated Business Week, Forbes and Motley Fool sections.

I've discovered that the URL's of most of these hidden sections on MSNBC are persistent. They aren't memorable urls being distinguished from one another only a numeric id but they do consistently return a page with the same title but fresh content. An easy way to find these hidden sections is to open the site in your PC browser. Most of the sections which don't show up in the mobile menu are listed in the left sidebar. Others show up in the top navigation bar when you open a story on the PC site. It turns out that the URL's on the PC site and the mobile site are the same - so if you open the Business Week link in the sidebar you will see that the url is If you enter that URL in a mobile browser you get a mobile formated version of the Business Week page. Not every PC page has a corresponding mobile version. None of the Multimedia pages have a mobile equivalent nor does the PC site's Formula One motor racing page. Still I'd say that 70% to 80% of's content is available on mobile. Here are some the ones I've found.

The MSNBC mobile pages are attractive and quite usable on most phones. Images are too wide at 170px for low end phones which generally have only 128px wide screens, but at least some mobile browsers can resize images to fit the phone screen. Opera Mini which runs on most phones resizes images too and handles MSNBC beautifully. Page weight is under the 10 KB markup limit of some browsers and pages have only a single image so markup plus images is under 20 KB as recommended by the W3C. Navigation is at the bottom of the page and uses access keys, another plus.

I don't know why MSNBC is hiding so much of their mobile content but I'll be adding links to all the hidden sections listed above and any others I find to the mobile portal.

MSNBC Mobile: xhtml
Content: ***** Usability: ****

2 thoughts on “MSNBC's Hidden Mobile Gems

  1. not sure i like that style - - sometimes you want to get to the "Real" full content, even though the site has decided you're a mobile user.
    e.g. flickr, if i go there with a palm browser, sends me off to their mobile site - which has tiny thumbnail photos. I was just fine using the full blown flickr previously.
  2. Pingback: Hidden Mobile Gems | StayGoLinks

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