Overture Unveils New Ad Product

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(AP) Online marketing pioneer Overture Services Inc. expanded beyond its commercial search engine Monday by unveiling a new product designed to match advertising links with the content displayed on Web pages.

Pasadena-based Overture launched the product, dubbed “Content Match,” on Microsoft’s MSN.com, one of the Web’s most popular destinations. Several other sites, including Edmunds.com and MyFamily.com, have signed up for the new service.

The system is meant to make advertising more relevant to the rest of the information on a Web page. As an example, somebody reading a story about cars on MSN might see a nearby Web link of an auto dealership seeking potential customers.

Overture’s fiercest rival, search engine leader Google, introduced a similar contextual ad program three months ago.

Like Google’s system, Overture’s new advertising program draws upon a large database used in its commercial search engine. Overture’s index, consisting of 88,000 advertisers, already is widely used by MSN, Yahoo, and other Web sites to list search results.

Overture’s commercial search engine auctions its rankings to advertisers who want to be listed under specific keywords.

The concept has been a big financial success, with Overture’s revenue expected to surpass $1 billion this year.

But Overture’s sales growth is slackening and its profit margins are shriveling, prompting management to diversify with new services and acquisitions, such as its recent purchases of AltaVista and Alltheweb.com.

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