Yahoo launches major upgrade to display ad system

NEW YORK -- Yahoo yhoo launched a much-anticipated upgrade to its online advertising system Wednesday, one the company termed revolutionary as it bids to emerge from the shadow of search industry leader Google goog.

Playing to Yahoo's strengths in graphical display ads and technology targeting pitches to users' interests, the Apt from Yahoo platform will initially involve the newspaper companies in a 2-year-old consortium led by Yahoo, which many joined hoping for relief from the decline in their industry.

The platform promises to make it easier for advertisers and publishers alike to buy and sell display ads, borrowing many of the self-service techniques that have made search ads lucrative for Internet companies, especially Google.

By tapping data Yahoo already collects on users' preferences, Apt aims to help advertisers narrow their pitches to specific groups of customers because sharper targeting will let websites charge more for ads.

Yahoo President Sue Decker said that Apt positions the company to capture growth in display advertising following several years of focus on search.

It's unclear whether the technology will give Yahoo the lift it needs. A previous technology revival focusing on search ads, called Panama, failed to resonate with Wall Street despite accolades from advertisers, and Yahoo has remained in a funk, its stock recently sinking to its lowest level in nearly five years.

Yahoo is initially offering the platform to the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News, both near the company's headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. It will extend Apt to the 782 other newspapers in its consortium over the next several months and will open it to other sites and advertisers in 2009.