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Monday, January 15, 2007

Free Analytics from MSN

In another attempt to steal market share, MSN is setting itself up to release a beta test of their own free analytics - code named "Gatineau" - the home of MSN's latest acquisition Deep Metrix, an analytics company. (All along the same lines as Google's acquisition of Urchin to later become Google Analytics.)

In the coming months, Microsoft expects to launch an invitation-only beta to test the tool says Ian Thomas, who heads the Gatineau project for Microsoft's Digital Advertising Solutions team. "We hope to release this product during 2007; however, we're extremely keen to avoid a repeat of Google's experience with Google Analytics, so we will be ramping up our user numbers gradually to make sure everyone has a good experience from a performance perspective."

After its release, Google Analytics was so inundated that it stopped accepting new users - making hopefuls wait for months for an accepted invitation. MSN wants to avoid this turmoil, and position itself for the inevitable onslaught of users. This has to be making such giants as WebTrends and Omniture a little worried; as it is almost certain that MSN and Google will divide the entire small business market and at least be a secondary resource for online giants to cross compare analytics suites. (Want more information? Look at Manoj Jasra's take on the analytics game.) I know that that when I look at analytics packages, there is always a rather large discrepancy across the board; and in my experience, Google provides the best data in relationship to Adwords and website activity.

However, MSN will still be under the same pervading thumb - it may be coming out with very cool and effective tools for marketers (adCenter Labs, etc.), but what it doesn't have is the necessary market share for advertising. Sure the CTR might be strong, as well a the conversion rates for e-retailers using adCenter, but the search volume isn't there to make MSN a player in the search game. Tools be dammed, the people have to be there first!

What will Microsoft's answer be? Watch for them to start talking to the falling and C-suite shuffling Yahoo! - might be the biggest M&A market grab since Coors and Molson.

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