Microsoft has joined the race to buy online marketing firm 24/7 Real Media, it has emerged.

According to a report in the New York Post, the software giant is considering placing a bid in the region of $1 billion dollars (£0.5 billion) for the company.

Microsoft joins London-based WPP, the second largest advertiser in the world, in registering an interest in 24/7 Media, which brokers display ads and provides metric services for online marketing campaigns.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to respond on the report, but Kevin Lee, chairman of search-advertising firm Did-it.com, said that "the longer they [Microsoft] waited, the more they would have to pay."

Both Microsoft and WPP would be battling for 24/7 Real Media in the knowledge that rivals Google and Yahoo! have recently consolidated their position in the online marketing arena with the respective acquisitions of Double Click and Right Media.

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