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Microsoft is turning to customers for advice on how to build an online advertising platform - four years after it started.

The company has announced its Publisher Leadership Council, whose members will consult with Microsoft on the construction of a "next-generation" advertising platform called PubCenter. Microsoft announced the council at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Charter members are IAC, Dow Jones Online, The New York Times company, Time, and Viacom whose executives will form a steering committee to help Microsoft gain "greater insights and perspectives, representatives will have the unique opportunity to inform platform design and feature prioritization."

Scott Howe, corporate vice president of Microsoft's advertiser and publisher solutions group, said in a statement: "Some key features of PubCenter are still on the whiteboard, and we're giving our partners a pen."

What features, exactly? Enhanced targeting, measurement and reporting functionality.

Howe appears to have brought the group together in the spirit of mutual advancement. Oh, and competition against the internet's biggest search and ads company, Google. IAC's chairman and chief executive Barry Diller last year said Google as "irrelevant" to his Ask.com search business.

"Our competition isn't with each other. It's with offline, and waste," Howe said according to one Tweet from an IAB audience member reported on LiveSide.net. There was also skepticism over Microsoft's ability to act as a trusted partner. "Scott Howe is working on convincing the crowd, but can MSFT be trusted as a leader in "Transparency and Trust"?" Twittered another.

PubCenter is Microsoft's latest stab to get paid, online advertising right a good four years after it began spending billions in R&D, acquisitions and paid search in attempt to pull itself up from third place online and to overtake Google. PubCenter has been under beta in Microsoft's adCenter Publisher, according to LiveSide.net. ®

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