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Microsoft to keep Scroogling

Denies reports it's dumping the month-long advocacy campaign

Microsoft today denied reports that it has halted its anti-Google "Scroogled" campaign, and trumpeted the number of signatures its online petition has accumulated.

Initial reports Monday, based on a Microsoft executive's interview with California's KQED public radio, claimed that the Redmond, Wash. company was winding down the attack campaign.

Not true, said Microsoft.

"We can confirm the ad portion of this phase of the consumer education campaign has finished its scheduled run, but the Scroogled.com website and petition are still active," a Microsoft spokeswoman said in an email. "This important conversation about privacy continues, and so does this important consumer choice."

As the spokeswoman noted, Microsoft's Scroogled.com site has not vanished, and the online petition, launched on Care2's website, continues to collect signatures.

The petition, which originally had a target goal of 25,000, stood at 115,000 as of mid-day Tuesday. In messages sent to other media outlets late Monday, Microsoft claimed 3.5 million people had visited Scroogled.com.

In other words, the "conversion rate" -- for lack of a better term -- of the campaign now stands at 3.3%, the portion of the total Scroogled.com audience who have signed the petition.

Although the Scroogled campaign is not strictly advertising -- two weeks ago, a communications analyst called it an advocacy-like effort similar to political pitches from environmentalists and constitutional-change activists -- its conversion rate equals the response rate of direct mail, often called "junk mail," sent by firms to existing customers, according to a survey last year by the Direct Marketing Association (DHA).

But it's significantly better than an email-based ad campaign, which averages a response rate of just 0.12%, the DHA statistics show.

Microsoft's latest Scroogled campaign, launched a month ago, took on Google's Gmail, which Microsoft has blasted for machine-reading customers' emails to display ads. Microsoft has touted its own Outlook.com, the rebranded Hotmail, as a substitute for Gmail.

February's relaunch of Scroogled followed the debut campaign of November 2012, when Microsoft targeted Google's search practices.

Microsoft's 'conversion rate' from Scroogled.com visitors to petition signers is 3.3%, about equal to a retailer's junk mail campaign.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is [email protected].

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Read more about privacy in Computerworld's Privacy Topic Center.

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