MSN Confirms Paid Search Ambitions

NEW YORK Microsoft plans to announce today that it has developed a paid search platform that it will test over the next six months.

The pay-per-click system gives advertisers insight into audience data for their keyword selections, such as the searchers’ demographics, geographic location and lifestyle data like income level. MSN said it would test the service in France and Singapore, then evaluate it before introducing it to the United States and other parts of the world.

“It’s not about clicks,” said Joanne Bradford, MSN’s vice president and chief revenue officer. “It’s about giving people data and insight into the audience they’re reaching.”

The paid search system will serve as a plank in a larger Internet ad platform Microsoft is building called adCenter. Bradford said adCenter would eventually let advertisers connect from a single point to target specific audiences throughout MSN, using search, display advertising and other marketing options.

MSN’s development of a paid search platform will give advertisers a third option for running search advertising campaigns that reach large audiences. MSN is the third most popular search engine, drawing about 16 percent of all searches, according to ComScore Media Metrix.

MSN’s paid search platform was widely expected, particularly once Microsoft identified search as a major corporate initiative. Last month, MSN introduced its own Web search technology, backing it up with an estimated $150 million ad campaign. It has a contract with Yahoo for paid search listings through June 2006.

“We believe very strongly in our Yahoo-Overture relationship,” Bradford said, while adding that the contract is not exclusive.