MSN, the online portal owned by software colossus Microsoft, plans to launch a Media Center on its European sites, allowing media buyers to plan pan-European web campaigns free of charge.

The new service, an extension of a scheme running in the US since last April, will supply interested parties with data on audience profiles, web penetration and the cost of different internet ads spanning the disparate markets of Europe.

Although rivals Yahoo and Excite@Home have already published online ad rates on their sites, MSN’s new service is by far the most comprehensive in terms of the information provided. A user can select a desired audience according to age, education, occupation and gender, and is then shown the five sites within the MSN network which best reach the chosen audience profile. Finally, details and prices of the various types of ad available are supplied for each section.

The move is the latest attempt by an online portal to lure advertisers onto the web during the dotcom depression by catering to clients’ needs. Explained MSN’s media marketing manager Michelle Rutter: “The idea is to dispel some of the myths of online advertising and let people access information so they can better understand what they want to buy.”

The portal’s European vice president Judy Gibbons was equally enthusiastic to attract media buyers – whom she described as “paying customers”. So important is ad revenue, revealed Gibbons, that MSN has allocated one-third of its ad budget to “trade marketing”, targeting online advertisers.

News source: Wall Street Journal