MSNBC.com Can’t Quit Banner Ads

Reports of the death of banner ads on MSNBC.com are greatly exaggerated, or at least premature.

A handful of news articles earlier this week announced that, as part of a redesign, MSNBC.com was banishing standard IAB banner units from its Web site starting June 28th.

“The banner is dead on our site,” Charlie Tillinghast , president and publisher of the MSNBC Digital Network, said to Mediaweek. The quote was also picked up by Tech Flash and a handful of other online tech publications touting MSNBC’s emancipation from the much-derided display unit.

But visitors to MSNBC.com on Monday and Tuesday didn’t have to dig far to find banner ads: At least two appeared on the site’s home page, and several story pages had them as well. Advertisers included Cadillac and Merrill Lynch.

It turns out that “dead” may have been an overstatement. “The spirit of the story was right,” said Kyoo Kim, MSNBC.com’s VP of sales, referring to the Mediaweek article. “We are systematically going through and de-prioritizing the 728 by 90 banner ad.”

But don’t expect to see an MSNBC.com completely free of banner ads anytime soon. Yes, the redesign that debuted on Monday puts a stronger focus on rich media units and large OPA ad units that can better accommodate custom sponsorship deals. But the need for scale will continue to keep MSNBC.com at least partially dependent on banner ads for the foreseeable future, Kim said.

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