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Overture tests RSS ads

The Yahoo subsidiary is experimenting with Really Simple Syndication as a way to enhance its ad program. Is Google next?

Overture Services is experimenting with a new form of online advertisements that are paired with news feeds shuttled across the Web.

The Yahoo subsidiary is examining the viability of expanding its advertising network, which specializes in sponsored search results, into the hot area of Really Simple Syndication (RSS), according to a source familiar with the company.

RSS is a technical format that lets publishers syndicate snippets of news or content to third parties, and in turn, allows Web sites or individuals to aggregate disparate information sources onto one page. (Overture parent Yahoo offers subscribers an RSS syndication service.)

RSS is seen by many investors and Internet executives as a powerful new tool for content distribution. It's also feeding a social phenomenon in the blogging and publishing community by connecting information providers and their readership more closely.

But the question of how to profit from the news-syndication technology has remained unanswered for many publishers. As a result, several companies are looking to tap keyword-targeted search advertising, a multibillion-dollar business, for RSS feeds.

In September, Moreover Technologies introduced a free RSS service, supported by text ads from search network Kanoodle. RSS search engine Feedster also has partnered with Kanoodle to seed news feeds with keyword-targeted text ads.

Overture rival Google also could expand its network into RSS advertising. A Google representative said the company is not testing such a service at this time, but it is "always evaluating new opportunities to enhance our ad program."

Still, there is potential for controversy. Publishers and bloggers that offer their news via RSS feeds could view any third-party commercialization of their content as unfair.

News of Overture's tests with news aggregation service Feedburner surfaced Tuesday on the Web log . Feedburner is distributing Overture text ads with news originating on smaller RSS feeds, such as MobileTracker, according to Search Blog. The ads are directly related or relevant to the content of the syndicated headlines.

An Overture representative would not confirm the test. "We're always looking into new channels, but we don't have anything to announce now."

Feedburner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.