Yahoo is back in the contextual ad business.
Two years after shutting down a fledgling text-based ad product that Yahoo called the Publisher Network—essentially Yahoo's answer to AdSense, the company is giving it another go with the launch of Yahoo Bing Network Contextual Ads, a network of context-driven text ads.
Like Google's AdSense, Yahoo Bing Network Contextual Ads will place text ads on small sites across the Web; these ads are generally related to text found on a given Web page (an article on the Yankees might carry a text link ad for sporting goods). Yahoo's new network is being powered by the contextual ad firm Media.net, a Yahoo partner since 2010.
As you might expect, Yahoo Bing Network Contextual Ads taps into advertisers that already buy search ads through the Yahoo Bing Network (YBN), which handles search ads on both Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing. Through Yahoo Bing Contextual Ads, advertisers can extend their search campaigns to various publishers’ online and mobile sites.
Yahoo's publishing partners can customize these text ads with various colors, but at the most basic level, these ads will look like paid search results, set aside in a box labelled “ads by Yahoo.”
So what’s Media.net’s role? While YBN deals with the advertisers, Media.net manages the publishers. Like the defunct Yahoo Publisher Network, publishers can request invites to serve the YBN ads on their sites, and Media.net will crawl their sites to ensure the ads served are contextually relevant (e.g., a car site shows car ads). Media.net founder and CEO Divyank Turakhia said the companies have been beta testing the platform for almost a year, with over 1,000 publishers as well as Yahoo’s own sites.
At launch only Yahoo sites will fully participate. Beta publishers will be added over the next several months.
“Since its inception, Media.net has invested tremendous resources—people, capital and time—to build what Yahoo identifies to be a terrific monetization solution for Web publishers,” said Al Echamendi, vp of business development at Yahoo, in a statement. “During our evaluation process, we recognized Media.net as a technology and innovation leader, with a strong management team that has a significant business track record and industry experience.”
Turakhia said Yahoo chose to work with a third party like Media.net to power the contextual ads program because of the 400 employees Media.net could dedicate to the project and its position as a contextual targeting specialist. That contrasts with how Google built its contextual ad network. Instead of partnering with a third party, the search giant acquired one, Applied Semantics, that had already built a product called AdSense, which Google then made its own. Does that mean Media.net is an acquisition target for a newly flush Yahoo with an reportedly acquisition–minded CEO at the helm?
“We could be considered an acquisition target, but we haven’t had any such talks,” said Turakhia. “We’re not looking to sell, at least so far, but at some point in time it may make sense.”