The rumors are finally given official confirmation. MSN has announced that it will launch its own self-serve paid listings program similar to those run by Yahoo and Google. It will be tested in France and Singapore within the next six months. Dates for worldwide rollouts beyond this haven't been set. Today's SearchDay article, MSN To Launch Its Own Paid Listings Program, provides more details.
Search Engine Watch members should read the longer version of the story that goes into more details on the program's features, ad targeting capabilities and how targeting is done, how the program makes automated ad management even more important and the challenges in rolling the program out in the US market, among other things.
Postscript: See also MSN To Debut Sponsored Search Listings from MediaPost for some nice quotes and reaction from marketers and others on the program. Also see MSN vs. Google and Yahoo, Round 3 from News.com and MSN's adCenter: More Control and Better Results from ClickZ.