IQ News: Microsoft’s Sidewalk Pulls

Sales Force In-House
–Microsoft Network’s Sidewalk, the local online directory service, is bringing its advertising sales force in-house.
Since its launch in March of 1997, Sidewalk’s ad sales have been handled by CUC, a consumer services provider that later merged with hotel finance company HFS to become Cendant Corp.
“Bringing the force in-house means we’ll be closer to our advertising customers and able to respond more quickly to their needs,” said Peter Atkins, Sidewalk’s general manager of advertising, sales and marketing. “It’s a huge thing for us because this is the sales force that helped make Sidewalk such a huge success last year.”
Atkins said last year’s ad revenue surpassed $30 million, from over 6,000 advertisers, most of them local businesses. Redmond, Wash.-based Sidewalk had a 10-year contract with Cendant, but he said both sides are walking away happy.
“They get to focus on their core business of hotels, and we’ll build closer relationships with our customers.” He added that since Steve Ballmer was named president of Microsoft, “Microsoft has increased its focus on winning in the online space, and this is a sign of that commitment.”
Atkins said his managers are in the process of interviewing the Cendant reps, but have not decided how many of the several hundred reps would stay. Atkins did say that no sales offices will be closed.
Cendant staffed 20 offices with teams devoted solely to Sidewalk. Cendant executives could not be reached for comment.