Yahoo to Offer Behavioral Targeting on Newspaper Consortium Sites

Yahoo has started testing behavioral and geo-targeting across its growing network of newspaper publisher sites. A preview of its nascent display ad management platform and recent statements from Yahoo execs indicate the firm’s sales restructuring, newspaper consortium project and network ambitions are aligning.

The paper partners are able to sell ads targeted behaviorally on their own sites alone or throughout Yahoo-owned properties, based on 350 standard Yahoo audience segments, as well as customized behavioral segments, according to Lem Lloyd, VP of Yahoo’s Newspaper Consortium. “They could create one of their own and it might be very local,” he said. About 20 paper sites are currently testing the cross-sales offerings; that group will expand to 50 in a month, Lloyd said.

“Geo-targeting and behavioral targeting are key to making it work at desirable CPMs,” said Ken Doctor, newspaper industry pundit and lead news analyst at media market research firm Outsell, in regards to Yahoo’s relationships with paper publishers.

In June 2007, Yahoo said it would collapse its separate display and search advertising departments into one holistic operation. The company aimed to counteract slowing growth in display ad sales, and to make it easier for advertisers to place integrated search and display campaigns. The goal was to make the buying process easier for advertisers by organizing around customers, rather than products, Yahoo’s new Head of North American Sales David Karnstedt told ClickZ at the time.

Streamlining from a technology standpoint is the next step in that evolution. Yahoo has made a few ripples since the company touted its platform plans at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual meeting Monday. “We’re building a cutting-edge platform that simplifies the process for advertisers when buying targeted, guaranteed, and non-guaranteed advertising inventory across Yahoo’s owned and operated network, partner sites, and other advertising networks,” wrote Yahoo President Sue Decker on the company’s blog.

The Web-based management platform could rival the likes of DoubleClick DART, Microsoft’s Atlas, or other third party ad management systems. The new platform will be used for display advertising at first and eventually will work in tandem with Yahoo’s Panama search technology. According to Yahoo, the platform will allow advertisers to plan, preview and submit single orders targeted across the network of Yahoo publisher partners. The project, deemed in-house as Advertiser and Publisher Exchange or APEX, has no official name.

Of 26 publishers in the newspaper consortium, 21 will use the display ad platform, including Cox, Belo, Scripps, McClatchy and Media News Group. Currently, those 21 publishers each have about one paper site in the system. For instance, “Cox started with [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s] and… once we expand further, more Cox sites will be part of that,” said Lloyd.

“If you join the consortium, you use the ad platform as your exclusive ad platform… That’s a core piece of the deal,” he said.

Yahoo’s newspaper partner group has grown to encompass 634 papers, including 425 dailies. However, the publishing firms it’s aligned with have not all agreed to run its display advertising or sell Yahoo inventory to local advertisers. For example, recent Yahoo partners Times Publishing Company and the Columbian Publishing Company have signed on to integrate Yahoo HotJobs recruitment ads only. Meanwhile The Buffalo News and thirteen sites published by new Yahoo partner Shaw Newspapers agreed to integrate HotJobs and Yahoo Search on their sites, along with selling Yahoo inventory to their local advertisers, and allowing Yahoo to sell their inventory to national advertisers.

Display advertising is clearly a big focus for Yahoo more so than ever, as the firm’s ad network expansion and apparent paper consortium dedication show. In addition to its growing list of newspaper publisher partners, Yahoo has forged relationships with eBay and Comcast, and has acquired networks Right Media and Blue Lithium in an effort to dominate the display ad arena. In her blog post, Decker described newspaper publisher partners as “pleased” with the new platform after previewing it.

Recognizing it’s losing the search ad game to Google, Yahoo is not only looking to take on large networks like AOL’s and Valueclick, but possibly even ad management platforms like DoubleClick’s DART, which could soon be a property of Yahoo’s longtime adversary Google, the clear current winner in search advertising.

Still, though some have suggested Yahoo is taking aim at DoubleClick and other ad management firms in developing its display ad platform, it hasn’t been designed solely to compete with other ad platforms. According to Lloyd, it’s been necessary for logistical reasons for Yahoo to ensure the use of a common ad management system across the consortium network, for instance.

UPDATE: This story originally stated that Yahoo’s new platform is currently in beta testing with about 20 paper sites, and that the testing group will expand to 50 in a month. To clarify, the paper sites are testing the cross-sales offerings, but are not themselves testing the platform itself yet.

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