Start-Up Unveils Targeted Ad-Supported MP3 Downloads

EverAd, a start-up that aims to integrate advertising into software, is releasing an MP3 technology that allows advertisers to sponsor specific songs, which users will download for free from the company’s PlayJ Web site.

So far, the company has signed on more than 200 advertisers, including Bell Atlantic, Columbia House, Rolling Stone, Earthlink, HotJobs.com, and CBS Sportsline. The key to that success, however, is the fact that EverAd isn’t initially charging for ads, though it eventually hopes to charge a $15 CPM.

The songs, which will be downloadable when the PlayJ Web site launches in mid-March, include The Orchard LLC catalog, which carries artists like A Flock of Seagulls, Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, Gary Wright, Art Garfunkel, Bob Welch (Fleetwood Mac) and D.O.A. EverAd has also signed smaller labels.

The play is similar to that being pursued by Aureate Media and Conducent, both of which are placing ads in software. Qualcomm has also recently introduced an ad-supported version of its Eudora email program. But the technology EverAd is using, which works with a variety of common MP3 players, is specific to MP3s and allows potential sponsors to be quite choosy.

“It’s the ultimate in Internet targeting,” boasts Mody Livsky, executive director of advertising sales for PlayJ.

“If Pepsi wanted to broaden its sponsorship of let’s say Britney Spears, for example, then every Britney Spears song downloaded around the world with PlayJ, would feature Pepsi advertising or promotional spots, guaranteed.”

The ad technology places a banner-like ad on the user’s screen, and cuts off the music if the screen saver comes on. The banners appear both when the user is online and when he is offline, and the technology tracks what songs are played and for how long. Of course, more savvy users could short-circuit the system by setting up their computers so that a screensaver never comes on.

The company is using technology from Netgravity and DoubleClick, where Livsky worked on local advertising before joining EverAd. DoubleClick is serving the ads, and Netgravity is compiling usage reports.

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