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Yahoo! Offers Virtual Conferencing

Seeing an increasing demand for alternatives to traditional in-person business meetings, Internet portal Yahoo! Inc. launched new Internet broadcasting packages that will be available through the broadband services unit of its business communications division.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company avoided mentioning the events of Sept. 11, but said that with travel and meeting costs rising and the recent travel restrictions, it is introducing Virtual Conference services and launching an Executive Communications Center.

"Yahoo!'s solutions will allow companies to continue vital communications that were centered around large scale meetings and maintain critical and focused outreach to customers, sales forces and business partners," said Jim Fanella, senior vice president of Yahoo!'s Business and Enterprise Services division.

It's also a step in the direction of monetizing the franchise, which Yahoo! has been working hard to do in the face of a decline in Internet advertising. It recently upgraded its other corporate offerings,, for example, and recently launched two new fee-based packages at its GeoCities unit -- GeoCities Pro and GeoCities Webmaster.

Yahoo! said the Virtual Conference solution combines audio, video, informational slides synched to presentations, and a browser to view other meetings associated with the same conference; interactive tools for polling, question and answer, document sharing, and audience surveys; registration, live attendance tracking, and post event reporting on attendees; and archiving and hosting.

The Executive Communication Center is aimed at delivering high-level information during times of breaking news that may affect a company or its business.

The product serves as an immediate communications channel to allow rapid global distribution of critical corporate information to internal audiences. Yahoo! said its Broadcast Services personnel will be available 7x24 to acquire and distribute corporate broadcasts within four hours of receipt.

Yahoo! last June rolled out a suite of advertising and marketing products for its broadcast unit, some of which closely resemble virtual conferencing.

Price points for the new services were not disclosed, and there is of course a ton of competition in the online meeting space. But clearly anything Yahoo! can do to add to its revenue stream helps. Its stock was trading at $8.16 at mid-morning, near its 52-week low of $8.02.