Signs With Taboola, Focusing On Native Ads For Microsoft Store

Taboola and has gone through a lot of changes recently, switching to a syndication-only content model a year and a half ago and having its ad sales move to AOL.

To personalize’s content and ad experience, Microsoft revealed Tuesday it had signed on with Taboola to bring native ads and personalization to the MSN site in 50 markets.

“We definitely are in turnaround from a portal business perspective,” said Joe Cepollina, who leads digital advertising and promotion for Microsoft’s Universal Store, which contains apps for desktop, tablets and phones “We were looking for not just a native ad partner, but a strategic partner who could help us with a bunch of different priorities.”

Taboola, which according to CEO Adam Singolda is transitioning from “widget to platform,” will offer a platter of solutions to high-impact sponsored content, tailored ads for Microsoft products and the ability to personalize content layout according to a user’s preferences.

Someone with Windows 10 might receive app suggestions, someone with Windows 7 or 8 will be encouraged to upgrade, and someone with iOS or Chromebook will receive retail messages, all delivered using Taboola’s technology.

To monetize via native, an image-heavy carousel at the top of the page will show “sponsored by Taboola” content, a premium native ad unit. Though much inventory is now being sold by AOL, that agreement covers IAB standard units and rich media units, not this type of native ad placement.

Microsoft has plenty of internal resources devoted to personalization, but it’s also experimenting with Taboola’s full-page personalization features. Different sections, like news, entertainment or sports, will move higher or lower on the page depending on how a user engages with that content. And someone that likes specific types of content – like video – will see more of it.

Microsoft runs 50 A/B tests concurrently to test performance on That will help it improve how it deploys Taboola’s technology. Its ultimate metric for success with this deal, though, isn’t monetization.

“We believe the real test for us is audience,” Cepollina said. “Can we grow audience more organically? Can we make sure the audience is engaged, measuring that not just in pageview counts but in how much time they’re spending with us?” Improving metrics in those areas will validate Microsoft’s steps to breathe life into an aging portal.

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