Yahoo Banks Big On BT

by , Sep 24, 2008, 4:45 PM
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The FTC has been investigating behavioral targeting techniques for 20 months in response to a complaint filed by privacy advocates, Congress and the Senate have recently held hearings about online advertising, and three separate states mulled legislation regulating the industry this year.

But none of that appears to be slowing down Web companies who view behavioral targeting as the best way to monetize non-premium inventory.

Today, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, along with President Sue Decker and sales head Hilary Schneider, appeared in Manhattan to unveil a new platform, dubbed APT. The platform aims to make the process of buying and selling display ads easier, but the centerpiece of APT appears to be that it offers newspapers streamlined behavioral targeting.

In fact, MediaNewsGroup CEO Dean Singleton, who appeared on stage with the Yahoo execs, specifically touted APT's behavioral targeting capabilities. He boasted that Yahoo can create highly specific segments -- 25-year-olds looking to purchase hybrid cars, for example -- and arrange for ads to be served to such users when they're, say, reading sports articles on a publishers' site.

In a Q&A afterwards, Yahoo exec John Slade explained that one way Yahoo intends to create such segments is by combining information gleaned by examining users' search queries with their Web-surfing history.

While companies like Revenue Science and Tacoda (now owned by AOL), have offered behavioral targeting to newspapers for years, those companies didn't generally draw on data collected by search engines. In fact, when Google purchased DoubleClick, privacy advocates objected that the company would combine users' search histories with their activities across sites where DoubleClick serves ads to create highly detailed user profiles.

Google said that DoubleClick contracts prevent the company from doing so, but it's not clear how long such contracts will remain in effect.

Even though behavioral targeting is typically "anonymous," in that ad companies aren't collecting users' names or e-mail addresses, privacy advocates say that people's identities can be figured out if the profile is detailed enough.

Yahoo has already started testing its platform with two of the nearly-800 newspapers in its newspaper consortium, San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News. Yahoo intends to roll out APT to other newspapers over the next several months, and will deploy the platform on its own properties by next year.

Upping the glam quotient, Yahoo secured Jon Hamm, star of Madison Avenue favorite "Mad Men," as pitchman for the new platform.

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