Microsoft Hands Bradford Reins at MSN

NEW YORK Microsoft has named Joanne Bradford, the company’s top ad sales executive, to run its MSN Web portal.

In her new role as chief media officer at MSN, Bradford (who had been Microsoft’s chief media revenue officer) takes charge of the site’s marketing, business development and branded entertainment initiatives. She continues to report to Steve Berkowitz, svp of the online services group.

Chris Dobson, Bradford’s London-based lieutenant as vp of international ad sales, takes over her duties for global ad sales. He will oversee Microsoft’s push to embed advertising in MSN and Live.com, as well as in Xbox video games, mobile phones and Internet protocol TV.

The moves come as Microsoft reorients its business to fully participate in the Web advertising boom. It badly trails Google in Web search, and MSN has lagged its peers in attracting ad dollars.

In its last quarter, Microsoft reported a 5 percent rise in ad revenue compared to the same period a year earlier, a disappointing rate of growth attributed to its fledgling search ad system. Sales at the online services group, which includes MSN, fell 4 percent and it recorded a $136 million loss in the quarter, due to a decline is subscription revenue.

Bradford said part of her task is to change what she considers a mistaken view of MSN as a laggard and to place the company on an equal footing with rivals like Google, Yahoo and AOL.

“I don’t think that perception is fairly deserved of MSN,” she said. “The consumers come there everyday and are delighted by the experience.” MSN attracted 96.3 million U.S. visitors in October, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

The portal has recently pumped up its programming with original content. It struck a deal with production house Revelle, and has aired Web shows like Fan Club: Reality Baseball, the chronicle of a minor-league baseball team.

John Nicol, MSN’s general manager, will remain in place, the company said, reporting to Bradford. Microsoft named Bradford to head its ad sales in January from her position as MSN’s sales chief. Prior to joining Microsoft in 2001, she led North American sales for BusinessWeek.