Yahoo Search Subscriptions is another example of the entertainment portal's strategy of building loyalty by letting people customize search to meet their personal needs. The same strategy, called personalization, is also used by Yahoo rivals Google Inc., Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and others.
The new service available through Yahoo's general search page lets people choose the subscription service they want to scour for information. The content provider, however, must be a partner of Yahoo's in order for the search engine to have full access to the site. Subscription services typically don't allow others to search their sites, or provide only a tidbit of information to a search engine.
Subscription services that have signed up with Yahoo include ConsumerReports.org, The Wall Street Journal Online, TheStreet.com and The New England Journal of Medicine. In the coming weeks, Yahoo plans to add content aggregators Factiva and LexisNexis AlaCarte.
In trying to attract consumers, search engines have added bells and whistles, such as fancy toolbars, that haven't resonated with the majority of consumers. Jupiter Research, for example, has found that people are more interested in easy to use interfaces and more accurate results, and often don't see how the additional features offered by search engines will help them find what they want.
However, Tim Mayer, director of product management for Yahoo search technology, argued that subscription search provides a core service by potentially giving consumers one location to search for information they may already be paying for.
"Improving comprehensiveness (in search) is a key pillar to product quality and relevance," Mayer said.
From a revenue perspective, features like subscription search will hopefully attract more consumers to Yahoo, and get current users to visit the search engine more often. More consumers using the site more often generates more ad revenue.
With subscription search, which is currently in beta, Yahoo is looking to gather user feedback and information on how the product is being used, Mayer said.
The benefit for content publishers, who are not charged for making their sites available through the service, is in getting their information out to Yahoo's audience of 372 million unique visitors a month, the portal said.