MSN: Big Splash, Let's Wait for the Ripple

Lots and lots of stories were written about MSN's promised PPC platform launch. Danny Sullivan's written a comprehensive overview at SEW.

The most innovative dimension of the new product (beyond adding a major competitor to the marketplace) is the demographic reporting: gender, age group, geographic location, lifestyle segment, etc.

We're interested in all of it, but specifically in geography/local. And we expect more moves from MSN in this category to come.

MSN has an undisclosed number of registered users (many millions) and says it will use that information to serve ads accordingly (men vs. women, boys vs. men, humans vs. extraterrestrials, etc.). However, beyond the reporting of these metrics — who is clicking and when — which is of course valuable, there must be some capacity to actually target to take full advantage of the data.

Let's see how well this system works in practice (still over a year away from implementation in the U.S.). Registrations are full of false information and cookies are being routinely deleted. Then there's the "big brother" aspect of this.

To the extent that consumers using MSN believe they're being tracked it could have a negative effect on MSN search usage (however, consumers haven't objected to that bane of all privacy advocates, Amazon).

There might be some near-term downward pressure on PPC prices but this will probably ultimately expand the market as a whole and not result in any significant defections of advertisers from the major networks.

If advertisers like the demo data (and are actually given the tools to act on it) there will be demand for this from Google, Yahoo!, FindWhat, Kanoodle, etc.

It will make search/PPC more transparent. And, for advertisers, that would be a good thing ultimately.

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