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Microsoft to publishers: Help us avoid ad screw-ups

Company announces consortium of Web publishers to guide its design the next incarnation of Microsoft's online publishing platform

Say this about Microsoft: the company may not hit the right note with a product on its first or second try, but it perseveres.

So it was with a panoply of Microsoft products--Windows, NT, Internet Explorer, Xbox--where later iterations were head and shoulders above the original. Will we be saying something similar about the advertising platform the company is still building?

Impossible to say, but the news Monday of a Microsoft Publisher Leadership Council is designed to help the brass get it right with the next incarnation of the company's online publishing platform.

The company announced plans for AdCenter in 2005, telling the world it would be the centerpiece of its bid to increase Internet advertising. It's been an uneven development path since then. AdCenter, though, was for keyword advertising, while this announcement is for publishers:

PubCenter will be built on the existing AdCenter Publisher architecture that is currently in beta and will include the convergence of technologies and tools provided by the former Atlas and Rapt solutions, as well as a self-serve offering. The new platform will provide innovative forecasting and order management solutions, advanced analytics tools, and enhanced targeting functionality to enable all digital media publishers to have access to the tools and technology they need to provide valuable and relevant ad content to their advertising partners.

The first members include a roster of heavyweights: IAC, Dow Jones Online, The New York Times Co., Time Inc., and Viacom.

This group will provide firsthand perspectives and insights to inform PubCenter features and functionality, including enhanced targeting, measurement and reporting functionality. Partner company executives will form a steering committee, focused on framing the key challenges and opportunities facing the digital media industry--and the role of technology in solving them. To help Microsoft gain greater insights and perspectives, representatives will have the unique opportunity to inform platform design and feature prioritization.

Probably a sensible idea. There's a lot riding on a successful debut and who better than experts in the field to offer advice about how to avoid advertising pitfalls. The last thing Steve Ballmer wants is to resurrect the ghost of Microsoft Bob.