January 12, 2003 9:00 PM PST

Yahoo touches up Personals

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In an overture to new paying subscribers, Yahoo is adding video and voice capabilities to its online dating service.

On Monday, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Web network plans to bolster Yahoo Personals, one of its chief moneymakers, with technology that lets people embed a greeting into their personals advertisements, either with video or a voice message, according to the company.

The feature is free, but if prospective mates like what they see or hear enough to want to meet someone, then they must sign up as a member of Yahoo Personals, which costs $24.95 for one month or $49.95 for three months.

Yahoo is buttering up its online dating service at a time when it's one of its more financially attractive businesses. In the third quarter, Yahoo reported that 70 percent of the company's subscription revenue came from four services that included Personals. Yahoo has pledged to emphasize building paid memberships of all orders to help offset declines in online advertising.

Still, the company faces major rivals in the online dating market, which is one of the hot spots for social activity?-and profits?-on the Web. Match.com, which rules the market, and others have been adding more advanced matchmaking features in their online communities to try and stand out from the pack.

Last year, Match.com, DateCam.com and PalTalk unveiled instant chat services for those looking to find dates online. Yahoo also improved IM for personals members, including adding a Webcam feature for broadband users.

With its latest feature, which goes live Sunday night, the service lets people add a simple greeting to a personals ad via their phone. To add video, people must have a Webcam connected to their PC. And to stream and play back messages, visitors must have a Windows Media Player.

Yahoo said that the features will be key in driving new subscribers. The company cited statistics showing that people search on ads with photos eight more times than ads with none.


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