Yahoo! Buffs Up Personals

Yahoo announced Monday that it will allow users to add free 30-second video and voice clips to their personal ads on the portal.

With the new feature, Yahoo Personals users have the option of recording a short voice greeting through the phone that accompanies their text advertisement. Those with a Web cam can record a video clip.

According to Yahoo, 75 percent of its users expressed interest in the capability during a survey the company took.

We listen to our singles audience and continually develop new customer-friendly features that enhance our service and create an even better experience for singles,” said Katie Mitic, vice president and general manager of Yahoo Personals.

The improvement to its personals section comes as Yahoo continues to diversify its revenue streams, with an eye toward being less dependent on advertising. Since Terry Semel took the reins of the company in April 2001, he has focused Yahoo on wringing more money out of its 100 million registered users with paid services. The company now offers fee-based services for everything from personal ads to high-speed Internet access to enhanced email.

The moves have been working. Last quarter, Yahoo’s fees and listings area accounted for 25 percent of its $248.8 million in revenues — a 36 percent increase from a year earlier. So far, the company has 2 million users paying for services. Semel has said that he expects Yahoo will have 10 million paying customers in the next few years.

Yahoo has sought to leverage its technology to further its paid services, offering Webcasting and corporate portal services, for example.

The online personals industry has continued to be robust. According to Jupiter Research, which is a unit of this site’s parent company, 16.3 million singles visited dating sites last year and the industry took in $313 million. By 2007, Jupiter Research expects that to grow to $642 million.

Yahoo Personals is one of the largest dating sites, drawing about 4 million visitors a month. Its biggest competitor is Match.com.

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