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MSN Joins Google, Yahoo! with Paid Search Results

Microsoft executives will unveil a new MSN Search paid search-results feature that the company says is dramatically more sophisticated than anything offered by Google or Yahoo!. The company made the announcement at  the sixth annual MSN Strategic Account Summit at the Microsoft campus today. A pilot program of the new service, dubbed MSN adCenter, will run in France and Singapore over the next several months and will provide advertisers with valuable demographic information about users. Microsoft will use feedback from the pilot program to improve the service before its rolled out worldwide.

"Microsoft's Strategic Account Summit is one of the most important industry events of the year for advertisers, publishers and creative agencies," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said. "We are proud to host many of the top thought leaders from the advertising and media community, and join them in addressing how to interact and communicate with consumers in new and meaningful ways online."

The new service will give advertisers unprecedented access to MSN Search users, including such information as age, gender, geographic location, and so-called lifestyle characteristics. This information will make it possible for MSN to charge advertisers more for users that are relevant to their businesses.

Privacy advocates, naturally, are concerned about the service, but Microsoft executives say that advertisers will only receive aggregate data, not individual users' names. Microsoft is moving Web advertising from "buying keywords to buying an audience," Microsoft vice president Yusuf Mehdi told the Wall Street Journal.

MSN adCenter has been in development for a year and a half, according to the company. And it will eventually tie together advertising across all of MSN's Web properties. "This is a one-stop shop for our advertisers," MSN Product Manager Karen Redetzki said.

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