Overture Inks Content Listings Deals

Yahoo's Overture Services unit said yesterday that it signed distribution deals to display its Content Match paid listings on CNN Web sites, WSJ.com and ESPN.com.

The three deals will greatly expand the reach of its Content Match program. Content Match scans a Web page and displays related keyword-triggered advertiser text listings at the bottom of the page.

Unlike rival Google, which has signed up thousands of Web sites for its AdSense program, Overture has moved slowly with Content Match. In addition to the three sites, Content Match listings appear on some sections of Yahoo, parts of MSN and a handful of other smaller Web sites, including Edmunds.com and the Away Network.

CNN.com drew 22.4 million unique visitors in February, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. ESPN.com received 17.2 million and WSJ.com 2.2 million.

In addition to a smaller distribution network that focuses mostly on top sites, Overture has tried to differentiate itself from Google by separating the bidding process for Content Match listings from search listings. The move was made in response to advertiser complaints that content ads generally perform worse than search ads.

Last week, Google began a scheme to lower the price per click for content listings it finds convert at a lower rate than search. It maintains a single bidding system for search and content listings.

With CNN's Web sites and ESPN.com, Overture built on existing search agreements. CNN and Overture partnered in December 2002 for Overture to display paid listings on CNN.com, CNNSI.com and CNNMoney.com. Beginning next month, it will display Content Match listings on those three sites. The sites used Google for Web search. Under terms of the new agreement, CNN will swap Google's Web search technology for Yahoo's.

Overture also expanded on paid and Web search agreements it struck with ESPN.com in February 2003. The site has been testing Content Match listings for the past few months.

Overture's agreement with WSJ.com is a new deal, with contextual listings to appear in sections that include CareerJournal, RealEstateJournal and OpinionJournal. In addition to contextual paid listings, it calls for Overture to provide paid search listings for the site. Overture said it is in discussions with WSJ.com to provide Web search.

Overture did not reveal financial terms of the multi-year deals.

Separately, Google announced yesterday that it signed a deal with BellSouth to provide algorithmic and paid search on its home page. Details of the multiyear agreement were not disclosed.

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