Yahoo Debuts ‘Apt’ Display Platform, Two Newspapers Attached

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Yahoo trotted out the big guns for the formal launch of its long-discussed display ad platform at Advertising Week in New York. Its senior lineup was, of course, present: Chief Yahoo Jerry Yang, President Sue Decker, and Sales Chief Hilary Schneider all spoke. But the company also wrangled up Jon Hamm, star of AMC series Mad Men, who blew a little smoke about the threads connecting the TV-driven ad biz of the early ’60s to the Web-driven one of 2008.

The product behind the hoopla couldn’t be more crucial to Yahoo’s future success: A new ad platform, in the works for 18 months and twice renamed, that aims to “aggregate the demand, and aggregate the supply” in the display ad marketplace, according to Decker.

The system, now called Apt, is designed to help media sellers deliver specific audiences to buyers, and to help those buyers offer up their audiences and inventory in an exchange-like fashion. It will eventually serve advertisers, ad agencies, ad networks, publishers, and Yahoo’s own inventory. However not all those parties will be able to participate at first.

Indeed, Apt debuted today with only two newspapers attached, and not even Yahoo’s own inventory will be managed through the system until 2009. Those newspapers are Hearst’s San Francisco Chronicle and MediaNews Group’s San Jose Mercury News.

As for advertisers, they’ll have to wait until next year to experience Apt’s buying functions. When they are granted access, Yahoo promises they’ll be able to use it to integrate their purchases of guaranteed (premium) and non-guaranteed (remnant) inventory across a wide range of media properties both inside and outside its family.

Dean Singleton, MediaNews Group’s CEO, said the Mercury News had already benefited from its use of Apt. Benefits include the ability to sell Yahoo audiences in local markets, and to package newspaper audiences according to their past behavior, demographics, and other targeting criteria — rather than by page and section.

“It will allow us to sell ads…at much higher rates,” Singleton said.

However, Singleton stated the Newspaper Consortium — which he helped found — had no plans to rely solely on Yahoo to address the industry’s online revenue challenges.

“We’ll continue to use ad networks to the extent networks work for us,” he said

As Apt finds purchase in the ad ecosystem, Yahoo may eventually combine it with the company’s other exchange platform for non-guaranteed inventory: Right Media.

Mike Walrath, co-founder of Right Media and one of the chief architect’s of the Apt platform, recently said the company intends to weave together the two platforms at some future point. He did not elaborate on how that might be done, but indicated Yahoo doesn’t necessarily need to reengineer either system to make it possible.

Yahoo’s isn’t the only display ad platform to emerge during Advertising Week. Platform-A yesterday unveiled plans to launch an auction-based buying system of its own. Called BidPlace, it will create a self-serve method for ad buyers to plan their media buys with the Time Warner digital ad unit.

And last night, MySpace rolled out a self-serve ad buying system of its own. Media planners can use it to hone in on audiences based on their interests and demographics

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