E*Trade Delivers Info via Yahoo Messenger

Users who want to find the latest financial news and information, and communicate with friends and co-workers at the same time, can benefit from a new service launched jointly by Yahoo! Inc. and E*Trade Group Inc. . Yahoo!, meanwhile, could see bottom-line benefits from the relationship as well.

Through the partnership, Yahoo! is setting up what is being called an “IMVironment,” a graphical interface to the company’s instant messenger service.

“Yahoo! Messenger IMVironments offer users a level of personalization that is not available through any other instant messaging service, and at the same time, provide a new means for top-flight companies, such as E*Trade Financial, to reach their target audience,” said Lisa Pollock, director of Messaging Products for Yahoo!.

Through the new online environment, Yahoo! Messenger users can have access to free 20-minute delayed stock quotes, financial news and information, and the new E*Trade Financial Web site. At the same time, the E*Trade IMVironment naturally retains the functionality of Yahoo! Messenger to exchange real-time messages with friends, family and colleagues.

Included in the new E*Trade-branded IMVironment are daily video and audio clips focused on current financial topics and market updates, allowing users to keep on top of current news. E*Trade will also feature an originally produced video segment called ‘IM the Money,’ which features a daily collection of correspondent interviews with consumers on financial market trends and sentiments — an exclusive to this environment.

Through pop-up windows in the IMVironment, Yahoo! Messenger users can also access special offers, locate E*Trade Financial ATMs, and view a list of E*Trade Financial Centers and Zone locations.

The new offering comes as one of the most advanced IMVironments that Yahoo! has created for advertisers to date. Recently, the site has rolled out Messenger interfaces for Radio Shack, Nintendo, and Twentieth Century Fox’s recent release, “Ice Age.”

With the new service, Yahoo! expands on its plan to grow revenues by expanding its services a step beyond online advertising — a strategy announced last November by Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Terry Semel, who came to the company six months earlier.

Semel has said the Santa Clara, Calif.-based media company is undergoing more of an evolution than a revolution, with greater focus being placed on diversifying revenue. Part of the evolution comes from establishing more cooperative relationships with their business partners, beyond the usual online advertising buys. “Customers are in — ‘my way or the highway’ is out,” said Yahoo! Chief Advertising Sales Officer Wenda Millard, at the time.

Part of Yahoo’s new plan includes a decreased dependency on advertising revenue altogether. Since Semel took office, the company has shifted from a near-100 percent dependency on advertising to 76 percent in ad dollars, with 20 percent now coming from business and customer fees, and 4 percent from transaction fees. “My goal is to have a 50-50 balance by 2004,” Semel said, with 50 percent focused on advertising and 50 percent on all other revenue.

Semel and other execs also have pointed to both outsourcing and acquisitions — fueled by its hefty cash reserves — to build products and services currently beyond Yahoo’s expertise.

Part of the solution to Yahoo!’s coming of age also will depend on charging for things that used to be free. The company says it is committed to free sections of its site, but ever so slowly, more content and services are coming with price tags attached.

Yahoo! has already been charging for its GeoCities Pro and GeoCities Webmaster, and parts of its Yahoo! Personals. The company even began asking for user fees for its auction site. All had been previously free.

Other money-making plans include new partnerships announced last November with SBC and Overture. Both joint ventures are expected keep the money flowing into Yahoo! coffers.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.

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