Quigo Starts Contextual Listings Network

Quigo Technologies began a contextual paid listings network yesterday that targets the health, travel and education industries.

Called AdSonar Exchange, the advertising platform works like Google's AdSense: It scans Web pages for their content and returns related advertiser text listings based on the keywords its technology extracts. Advertisers pay each time a user clicks on an ad, and the revenue is split between Quigo and the publisher.

Quigo, New York, said it has signed more than 200 publishers to carry listings in the three verticals. In health and travel, listings appear on sites like Island Media's SpaMagazine.com and Islands.com; and in education, it has a deal with The College Bound Network's CollegeBound.net.

Quigo CEO Michael Yavonditte said AdSonar Exchange lets advertisers know on which sites their ads will appear.

“If you're interested in travel, we're going to put your ad in front of the right person on the right page,” he said.

Since its launch a year ago, Google's AdSense has expanded greatly to include thousands of sites, from high-profile ones like NYTimes.com to small Web logs. Among high-profile sites, AdSense has seen competition from Overture Services' Content Match, which is distributed on Yahoo, parts of MSN, ESPN.com and some smaller sites. Kanoodle also has emerged as a competitor, signing distribution deals with CBS MarketWatch and MSNBC.com.

Even with its rapid growth, AdSense is not without critics. Many advertisers complained that clicks from content listings do not convert at the same rate as search listings. Google offers advertisers only one auction, for both search and content listings.

In April, Google moved to address these concerns with Smart Pricing, a technology that adjusts the cost-per-click for listings that it finds do not perform as well as others placed in different inventory. Google announced Smart Pricing along with its new e-mail service, Gmail, which will carry AdSense listings and could expand their reach greatly.

AdSonar's vertical focus is similar to the approach taken by other contextual listings companies. Industry Brains, for example, provides paid listings for some specialized finance and technology sites including BusinessWeek Online and BankRate.

Like Kanoodle, AdSonar advertisers bid on topics, not keywords. An education advertiser would bid on the “distance learning” category rather than on keyword permutations like “online degree,” “Internet education” and “online diploma.” Each vertical contains 500 to 1,000 topics. Publishers draw only from advertiser listings in their vertical.

Yavonditte said this would address a common criticism of AdSense: off-target listings, like an airline tickets offer next to a financial site's news story about the airline industry looking for federally guaranteed loans.

AdSonar's category minimum bids are typically about 20 cents, much above Google's 5-cent minimum. Kanoodle's category minimum bids range from 10 to 50 cents.

Yavonditte said Quigo would focus on what he calls “micro-marketplaces,” which will benefit its advertisers and publishers while letting AdSonar Exchange avoid competing with Google in terms of scale and volume.

“We may not be your primary source of traffic but a good source,” he said. “We're too small to be everything to everyone.”

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