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Yahoo previews online ad-management platform

System could launch as soon as July

Yahoo has released details of a web-based system to buy online-ad space across some 600 online newspapers and other websites. The Yahoo ad-platform could be up and running as soon as July.

The system is designed to let publishers quickly find available ad space on their own sites for advertisers, and when none is available, on other sites. The system is "almost ready" and will be launched in the third quarter of this year, Yahoo said.

The announcement comes as Yahoo is expected to respond to Microsoft's renewed threat to pursue a proxy battle if Yahoo doesn't agree to an acquisition within the next three weeks.

The new ad system, which Yahoo calls AMP and was formerly known as Project Apex, is likely one of the technologies Microsoft is eager to incorporate into its own operations.

Microsoft's justification for its $44.6bn bid for Yahoo in February was largely centered on trying to invigorate its online-advertising operations, which have trailed Google's.

Yahoo's early preview of AMP may also be a move designed to show the company's strength to force Microsoft to raise its bid. Yahoo has maintained Microsoft's offer undervalues the company.

But Yahoo's AMP already faces a competing up-and-running service: Google's PrintAds, which lets customers who are already buying contextual web-based ads also place ads in around 600 daily and weekly US newspapers. PrintAds also offers ad-design tools.

AMP will be the technology platform that will leverage a historic ad revenue-sharing agreement Yahoo made in November 2006 with US newspaper publishers.

As part of the agreement, Yahoo provides search services, places job ads on its own HotJobs site and sells web advertising. The deal was expanded one year ago, and now Yahoo says 600 US newspapers are part of the Newspaper Consortium.

AMP will link together the ad inventory of those publishers, offering advertisers the ability to buy search, display, local, mobile or video ads, Yahoo said.

Publishers have a couple of problems with the way they sell ads now, Yahoo said in a preview of the system. When an advertiser approaches and wants, for example, 2 million impressions for a campaign advertising a new car, the publisher must use their ad systems to find out if they can deliver that many impressions. The process can take up to 15 minutes, which Yahoo describes as slow.

If the publisher can't deliver that many impressions, they must look to other websites to share in the deal. That typically involves phone calls, which starts another slow process by another publisher to see if they have inventory and can deliver a certain number of impressions, Yahoo said.

AMP wraps up the ability to see others' available ad space as well as a publisher's own through a web-based interface, speeding up the ad placement process. Yahoo also describes it as a stock market for ads, with competitive bidding, as well as the ability to do behavioural, demographic and geographic targeting.

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