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News Corp. buys Web ad firm

February 23, 2007|Joseph Menn | Times Staff Writer

News Corp. said Thursday that it had acquired a company that it hoped would make Web advertising on its properties, especially MySpace, more valuable.

Strategic Data Corp., which was purchased for an undisclosed price, makes software that targets advertising to computer users based on their interests and demographics.

The technology will allow MySpace to charge more because its ads will reach a more appropriate audience and users will be more likely to act on the ads they see, said Peter Levinsohn, president of News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media, the division that operates MySpace.

"You probably don't want to serve someone in Detroit a surfboard ad," Levinsohn said by way of example.

The technology will begin to customize advertising by tracking the ads that users click on and the information users provide when they sign up for the free MySpace service. The plan is to add further tailoring based on the hobbies and preferred products users list on their pages.

MySpace is among the top destinations on the Web, but News Corp. hasn't been able to charge as much for ad impression as other sites. That's in part because the content is chaotic and can be of questionable taste and relevance to advertisers.

And yet, "we have more information about our users than anyone else in the world," Levinsohn said. "Any technologies that enable us to monetize the site better, any applications that make the user experience more robust, are things that we're going to look at very closely."

Funded by venture capital firms in 2000, Santa Monica-based Strategic Data has helped other websites sell more targeted ads for years. Its clients have included such companies as Hotbar, which has been faulted for installing software that spews unwanted pop-ups.

Levinsohn said that MySpace wouldn't use more intrusive ads and that the company would review Strategic's client list for possible changes.

Strategic Data is headed by Richard Janssen, who co-founded Homestore.com Inc. and served as president there from 1996 to 1999, leaving before an accounting scandal that landed subsequent executives in jail. He and Strategic Data's 13 other employees will work for Fox Interactive, Levinsohn said.

joseph.menn@latimes.com

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