Microsoft Partners With The Wall Street Journal

Seeking to corner the financial services sector, Microsoft has forged another distribution and ad sales partnership, this time with The Wall Street Journal.

Advertising is increasingly becoming a centerpiece of Microsoft's business strategy. In October, its chief executive Steve Ballmer said advertising would make up 25% of the company's total revenue within a few years. Ballmer's pronouncement came a few months after Microsoft paid $6 billion for advertising technology powerhouse aQuantive.

aQuantive founder Brian McAndrews, now Microsoft's senior vice president for advertiser and publisher services, is planning the broad execution of the companies' combined digital marketing services network.

"This deal is a strong indicator that we're gaining significant traction with our advertising platform," McAndrews said.

Through aQuantive's Atlas division, McAndrews and Microsoft plan to soon provide advertisers with logs of all the sites where consumers encounter their ads online so they can more effectively plan their media spend.

Microsoft will now serve as the exclusive third-party provider of contextual and paid search advertising for The Wall Street Journal Digital Network of sites, including The Wall Street Journal Online, Barrons.com, MarketWatch.com, and AllThingsD.com, among others.

The collection sites add an estimated 20 million unique visitors per month to the extended Microsoft network, giving advertisers access to an increasingly deep financial services vertical. In recent weeks and month, Microsoft has reached similar deals with CNBC, MSN Money, and financial information provider Edgar Online.

"We think we've pretty much locked up the market for business-minded consumers," said Jon Tinter, general manager, strategy and business development for Microsoft.

Still, Tinter acknowledged that the deal is unlikely to satisfy advertisers. "They'll want more inventory," he said. "That's their biggest demand, today."

Since launching its adCenter hub last year, Microsoft has signed on roughly 100,000 advertisers, and plans to offer advertising throughout its entire product line. Firmly rooted in its history as a technology company--rather than an entertainment company--Microsoft last summer also opened a research center dedicated to online advertising.

In late October, Microsoft expanded its partnership with Facebook, winning exclusive global rights to sell third-party banner ads on the high-flying social network. Microsoft beat out Google in the deal, which also included a $240 million investment for a 1.6% stake in Facebook. Expanding the deal internationally was viewed as critical, because 60% of Facebook's nearly 50 million registered users are abroad.

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