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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Yahoo/Overture's New Initiative Largely as Expected; Holes Remain in the Story

The official press release on Yahoo's Content Acquisition and Site Match programs, looking very much like yesterday's CNET story, is out.

Small businesses just got the latest in a string of "uh oh" moments from Yahoo! The beginning of the end, as many small businesses see it, was when Yahoo began charging a one-time-only fee to list in the directory. The second major "uh oh" was when Yahoo de-emphasized their directory in the listings, even though advertisers were now paying $299/yr. to be listed. The latest is a multi-faceted "uh-oh." Yahoo's index may de-emphasize commercial content on terms deemed to be non-commercial, while forcing small businesses to pay twice (once for inclusion, then per click) to generate customers on their core business terms. Meanwhile, the worry that there are different classes of inclusion has come to pass with the "Site Match Xchange" program, dubbed "a full-service program for larger commercial content providers." If you like, you can also buy visibility by buying Overture sponsored listings, which is probably going to be the best deal for many. What you won't be enjoying anytime soon is any free traffic from Yahoo, unless you work for NPR.

The public/educational component of Yahoo's announcement is a bit baffling, too, seeming to go against the concept of what the Internet (and indexing it) really is all about.

Check out this excerpt from the release:

"Yahoo! is thinking innovatively about how to bring content to the broader Web search audience while changing and improving the way search engines interact with content providers," said Maria Thomas, vice president and general manager for NPR Online. "Through Yahoo!'s CAP program, NPR's daily news, information and entertainment content will be searchable by and accessible to audiences we might not otherwise reach."

By picking and choosing which info providers to make "deals" with, Yahoo forgoes an alternative path, which could have been to, well, index the web. We know there is a high degree of difficulty to this, which is why Inktomi (and now Yahoo) make no promises that they can accomplish the task.

In the NPR example, then, what seems to be a helpful contribution to public life may just contribute to more confusion. Other public bodies and quasi-educational sites will be hoping that they, too, could get their stuff included in Yahoo's index as opposed to just optimizing the site and waiting for the spider. But surely Yahoo won't be able to accommodate them all.

This, then, is what we are really holding our breath waiting for: what is this new spider, Yahoo Slurp, going to be doing, and what will become of the many pages it adds to the Yahoo Index? I'll try to get some answers today.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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