MSN WANTS AD SUPPORT, BUT THERE'S NO HARD SELL

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Advertisers are lining up for Microsoft Network, but Microsoft's not yet ready to take their money.

Microsoft Corp. will release a rate card and begin its major push to sell ads on MSN Aug. 15.

Only a few ads actually will be on the online service when it launches Aug. 24, and those will come from a limited roster of about 10 pilot marketers Microsoft has been working with recently.

In addition, Microsoft said it won't charge advertisers until it reaches 500,000 subscribers- which shouldn't be too hard to reach if MSN goes out as expected with Windows 95.

At its Interactive Media Conference in Long Beach, Calif., last week, Microsoft announced MSN's first advertiser, Swatch watches, which will tout its role as official timekeeper of the '96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Johns+Gorman Films, Los Angeles, is producing the Swatch effort. Ford Motor Co. also is working with MSN.

Among MSN's ad options:

Sponsorship of "guidebooks," listings of the best online or Internet offerings picked by Microsoft staff experts, will run about $30,000 a month.

Sponsorship of an event or promotion on MSN will cost $5,000 to $50,000.

Point-and-click links to a Web site will cost about $2,500 to $15,000 a month.

Billboards, ranging from a static logo to an animated message, will cost about $1,000 to $5,000 a month.

"Direct e-mail" to MSN subscribers will cost $500 for each thousand names.

MSN plans to stick to the rate card in some of these categories, while others will be open to negotiation, Steve Goldberg, MSN manager of advertising sales and development, told Advertising Age.

MSN is considering hiring multiple ad rep firms to handle different types of ads on the network.

"We know advertising is important. It's important to any mass medium," said John Williams, MSN group manager of market development. "The tricky part is to figure out what is the best way to go. We don't feel like we have to rush into advertising with this product. We know it will be there."

Indeed, Mr. Goldberg said he's turning away some advertisers that are approaching MSN because the service is still sorting through procedures.

A conference session on MSN ads drew more than 400 people. Many seemed frustrated by the lack of specifics offered by MSN.

MSN's decision to let content providers-an online magazine, for example-sell ads in their space while MSN sells ads in other areas of the network is a key point of confusion. One content provider complained he and MSN were courting the same advertiser, something Mr. Goldberg denied.

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