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Long before the word frenemy hit the buzzword bingo board, the proverb of complex relations was “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In the increasingly tangled melting pot that is online media and advertising, that sentiment is as true now as ever.

Today, competitors are often cooperative colleagues at the same time. Proof: Rivals Fox (News Corp) (NASDAQ:NWS) and NBC/Universal jointly developed popular web video portal Hulu despite otherwise battling each other for prime time TV audiences. More proof: Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is drawing competitors together to guide the development of its newest ad management tool, Pub Center.

Using the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual meeting as a launching platform, Microsoft announced a Publisher Leadership Council on Monday. The group joins together rivals including Dow Jones Online (DJ) and the New York Times (NYSE:NYT), as well as Time Inc., Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA) and IAC/Interactive (NASDAQ:IACI). Normally, these companies compete aggressively with each other for ad dollars and audiences online.

The Microsoft led initiative is a project aimed at gleaning insights to better guide the development of the company’s next generation digital media advertising platform. The focus will be on reporting, targeting and measuring problems and solutions – all of the parts of online advertising outside of sales and creative development.

Nada Stirratt, MTV Networks (Viacom) EVP of Digital Advertising, explains that the industry is currently “forced to rely on many disjointed tools and systems and the quality of data we receive can suffer as a result."

Microsoft (and many competitors) want to develop technology to improve that. Scott Howe, VP of Advertiser and Publisher Solutions at Microsoft, elaborated further saying some of the key features of PubCenter “are still on the whiteboard.”

“We’re giving our partners a pen,” he said.

A steering committee with representatives from the partner companies will be tasked with framing the key challenges and opportunities facing the digital media industry.

The PubCenter platform, which is characterized as being in “beta,” includes the fusion of tools from former Atlas and Rapt solutions (Microsoft acquired Rapt in March 2008).

Source: Microsoft Advertising Council Heralds Era of Internet Cooperation