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Yahoo Finance Gets Personal

The company courts consumers and advertisers to compete better against rivals MSN Money, AOL Money & Finance, Dow Jones, and CNN.

The battle between online financial research sites just got personal: Yahoo today added a new Yahoo Personal Finance section to Yahoo Finance, aiming to better monetize one of the more desirable online audience segments for advertisers.

"It makes a real nice addition for search advertisers and it helps us in terms of targeting," said Peggy White, general manager of Yahoo Finance. "If somebody is in our channel and they're looking at auto loans, the odds are real good they're about to make a decision." And where customers are making buying decisions, marketers will pay well to be seen and heard.

But Yahoo Personal Finance is about enriching users as well as Yahoo and its merchants. It "really is about bringing this content to our existing users to help deepen their engagement, to help them learn about other parts of their financial well-bring that can help them," said White. "And it's about attracting a new audience as well, that maybe didn't come to Yahoo Finance because maybe all the data was just a little too much."

The new site's ad inventory, however, isn't enough, at least at the moment. "We doing great with the initial advertisers that we have on the site," said White. "We are essentially sold out."

Yahoo Finance has been outperforming its rivals over the past year. It is closing in on MSN Money, the leading finance site in terms of unique users, according to comScore Media Metrix, and it is the only one of the top 5 finance sites to have gained traffic since 2005.

The number of unique visitors to MSN Money declined from 11.2 million in December 2005 to 9.8 million in December 2006, according to comScore. During this same period, Yahoo Finance saw its share of unique monthly visitors rise from 9.2 million to 9.6 million. AOL Money & Finance, Dow Jones & Company, and CNN Money, ranked 3 to 5 respectively in terms of unique visitors, saw their unique visitor numbers slip by -18%, -21%, and -7% respectively. A comScore spokesperson said data for Google Finance was not publicly available.

Last May, another Internet metrics company, Hitwise, painted a significantly different picture of finance site popularity, giving Yahoo the lead, with 34.9% market share. MSN Money came in second, with 13.4% market share. Google Finance launched only two months earlier, ranked 40th, with 0.29% market share.

White acknowledged that Yahoo Personal Finance in part represented a response to the competition. "We felt it was an area that we weren't doing as much as some of our competitors were perhaps," she said, but she stressed the new site reflected "Yahoo's continuing commitment to building great content."

Yahoo Personal Finance is built around nine major areas of personal finance: Banking and Budgeting, Career & Work, College & Education, Family & Home, Insurance, Loans, Real Estate, Retirement, and Taxes.

It includes financial content from other online sites, including, Consumer Reports, Kiplinger, The Motley Fool, Smart Money, and The Wall Street Journal. It also includes dozens of "How To" articles and financial calculators for answering questions like, "How will payroll adjustments affect my take home pay?"

Yahoo has also incorporated some of its other online social media assets like Yahoo Answers and user comments. "We're really only beginning to scratch the surface on the social applications that are here," said White.

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