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CrossMedia Services, MSNBC.com Unite for Local Retail Promotions

MSNBC.com will offer advertisers local advertisements, through a deal with retail chain marketer Chicago-based CrossMedia Services.

The Redmond, Wash. news site -- a joint venture of Microsoft Corp. and General Electric's NBC -- will be working with CrossMedia to create a co-branded site with special offers from major national retailers.

Because MSNBC.com offers personalization features -- visitors tell it their ZIP codes when logging on -- CrossMedia will be able to deliver deals and product information from nearby stores, using information passed from the news site.

As with other publishers, like AltaVista, with whom CrossMedia has a relationship, the MSNBC deals won't be online coupons -- instead, they're actual in-store discounts and special pricing.

"Essentially, it's an advertising model where retailers are willing to pay for exposure to their store's promotions, and the way the deal is set up, MSNBC.com and us will be sharing in those revenues from retailers," said CrossMedia spokesman Marc Kravitz. "We're providing a view of all of the sales promotions that we've aggregated altogether, so that their users can browse through them, by store, product, category, brand or mall."

Financial specifics of the deal were not disclosed.

According to Brian Hand, chief executive and founder of CrossMedia, the agreement is a boon for not just MSNBC and his firm, but also for the company's roughly 300 affiliated retail chains, including Sears and TruServ/TrueValue.

Precisely which of those retailers will be featured on the MSNBC.com site is still being determined, Kravitz said.

"We're delighted to join forces with CrossMedia Services," said Uli Haller, who is director of business operations at MSNBC.com. "CrossMedia Services provides detailed sales and promotional information that will help our users save time and money while they shop."

While such deals -- pooling special offers and targeting them to local users via a co-branded site -- are a far cry from publishers' typical methods of selling ad space to advertisers, the deal represents publishers' increasing efforts to find a way to monetize traffic better than traditional, CPM-based advertising sales.