Efficient Frontier is reporting its clients' average cost per click on paid search and contextual advertising across a range of categories. The category splits are interesting (note that EF's auto clients pay more for contextual clicks than for search clicks), but more interesting to me is the fact there's still a huge difference between search and contextual prices. So while we've heard reports that contextual ads are performing better now than they have in the past, keep in mind that search clicks -- to Efficient Frontier's clients, at least -- are on average still worth twice as much as clicks from contextual ads.
There's no shortage of comment around the blogosphere today about a possible combination of MSN and Yahoo, and its potential to threaten Google's dominance. But while it's useful to keep in mind what impact this will have on music, messaging, or other verticals, I'm going to stick with talking about search -- because that's the only advertising-related market in which a combined MSN/Yahoo would directly compete with Google (while AdSense is improving, that's just repurposed search -- and Google is almost a complete non-entity in graphical advertising), and more importantly because that's where the real money is.
So could a combined MSN/Yahoo search engine compete with Google in Europe? Well, no and yes.