Yahoo Freshens up Its Services Portfolio

Yahoo engineers had a busy week, evidently.

The Internet media and services provider added RSS feeds to its mobile Internet service, enhanced travel search and made moves toward launching a contextual ad service similar to Google’s AdSense.

On Thursday, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company gave users of its Yahoo Mobile Internet service the ability to access the syndicated feeds they’ve subscribed to on mobile devices. The feeds are accessed via a user’s personalized My Yahoo page. The service supports both the RSS and Atom format. Users of WAP phones will see headlines and summaries of stories; those with full HTML mobile browsers will be able to click links to access the full HTML version of a story.

“Our focus here is to take the power and benefit of what we’ve done with products like My Yahoo and bring it beyond the desktop,” said Scott Gatz Senior Director, Personalization Products for Yahoo. Gatz said that the ability to read feeds via mobile devices was one of the top features users had requested.

The new functionality is available free across the major U.S. wireless carriers, although users will still have to pay any data fees charged by the operators.

“You don’t need a super-fancy smartphone to access this,” Gatz said. “The majority of phones in the United States are able to access this content for free, without having to download anything.”

Gatz said Yahoo engineers used both the My Yahoo personalization platform and the Yahoo Mobile applications platform to add the mobile feeds.

On Wednesday, the company upgraded Yahoo FareChase, its beta search tool for travel fares, adding support for the Firefox, Safari and Netscape browsers. Would-be travelers can now sort results by price and departure, as well as refine searches by number of stops, flight times, airlines and nearby airports

Finally, Yahoo seems closer to launching a competitor to Google’s AdSense contextual marketing service that lets small publisher run ads related to their content and share in any revenue. Since late February, contextual ads have been appearing on the personal blogs of Overture employees. (Overture is the pay-per-click advertising division of Yahoo, recently rebranded to Yahoo Search Marketing Services.) Sightings were first reported by the blog

The Yahoo Publisher Network is taking advance registration. According to the sign-up form, “To support the publishing community, Yahoo will be introducing new products and services-including publishing tools, advertising products and access to our Yahoo audience. Our products will leverage the Yahoo network to provide the most value for small publishers.”

On March 4, Yahoo opened the Overture APIs to public access. But it has not yet plugged in to the wealth of content created by bloggers and small Web publishers. The new service would help it compete with the massive Google money machine.

In an earlier interview, Eckart Walther, director of product development for Yahoo Search, acknowledged to that this was something his company should do.

Search engine marketing consultant John Krystynak said there’s opportunity for Yahoo to grab advertisers from Google if it can do a better AdSense.

“Yahoo might have the ability to catch up by executing on some of the things Google doesn’t do very well,” he said.

For example, according to Krystynak, publishers have little control over what Google AdSense ads show up on their pages, nor do they know what advertisers are paying for clicks.

“If Yahoo launches it correctly, and goes for something different that would make some of the bigger publishers happy as well,” he said, “switching costs are zero.”

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