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Microsoft to Offer Content Ads to All Advertisers

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Microsoft's contextual ad units, previously available to a limited number of advertisers in a year-old pilot program, will soon be available to all U.S. advertisers.

Beginning August 29, all advertisers will have their ads shown in the Content Ads network of contextual ad placements on several Microsoft-owned sites, as well as partners Facebook and Digg. At launch, much of the inventory is in vertical areas like health, technology and finance. More third-party sites in those key verticals are expected to be added through partnerships in coming months. A self-service publisher sign-up similar to Google AdSense is expected to launch some time next year.

Bids for Content Ads will be set at an advertiser's current Broad Match bid for each ad group. If no Broad Match bid is present, the system will look for a Phrase Match bid, and then an Exact Match bid. In this way, the Content Ads will tend to use the lowest bid set for each group. New ad groups will include Content Ads by default, though advertisers can opt out of Content Ads at any time.

The pilot was expanded earlier this year with a new release of adCenter, and included several thousand advertisers.

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