Google ( GOOG) plans to start selling ads targeted to viewers' likely interests, the Wall Street Journal reports, marking the company's first step into the controversial type of Web advertising its competitors already offer. Google will use data it collects about what Web sites users visit and what it knows about the content of those sites to sort its audience of users into certain groups, the Journal reports. The data won't be drawn from search queries, but from cookies that Google installs on the Web browsers of users who visit pages where it serves ads. The Journal reports that unlike other behavioral targeting programs, users can view and change categories they're placed into through a Web site for managing their preferences. Google competitors such as Yahoo! ( YHOO) and Time Warner's ( TWX) AOL already have begun targeting ads based on Web-surfing data. Google won't track individuals by name, according to the Journal, nor will it apply the new targeting features to its search-ad business. The new features, which the Internet search company will start launching in phases Wednesday, are part of Google's push into the display advertising business, where such targeting technologies are becoming more mainstream, the newspaper says. Meanwhile, Google has repriced 7.64 million stock options that had become less likely to enrich its employees given the sharp decline in the company's market value during the past 16 months. Google said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that 15,642 workers seized on the opportunity to wipe the slate clean by getting stock options with a lower exercise price that reduced their cost for redeeming the reward. More than three-fourths of Google's 20,200 employees signed up for the repricing program, which expired Monday morning.
The replacement options were all priced at $308.57, mirroring Google's closing stock price at the end of last week. The stock closed Tuesday at $308.17.