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Yahoo tests premium-service package

The Web portal is quietly testing a new product called Yahoo Plus, which makes a selection of the company's paid services available through a single subscription.

Yahoo is testing a new product that makes a selection of its paid services available through a single subscription.

Yahoo Plus packages a selection of paid services and various Web-related software programs with a refurbished version of the company's customizable My Yahoo page. The product also includes a tool bar that embeds itself in a subscriber's Web browser and provides links to the paid services.

For now, Yahoo Plus will cost $7.95 a month. Subscribers choose any two premium services from a list that includes access to research from Consumer Reports, a subscription to an online encyclopedia, online bill-paying capabilities, access to Yahoo's All Star Games service, five auction listings a month, an extra 100MB of data storage and five company research reports a month.

Subscribers also get spam-filtering software, parental controls, antivirus software from Computer Associates, ZoneAlarm's firewall software and 50MB of online data storage for MP3 files and the like.

The premium-service choices mirror those included in a similar offering bundled into Yahoo's digital subscriber line product, which the company offers in partnership with SBC Communications.

Yahoo Plus underscores the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Web portal's ongoing initiative to convert its millions of visitors into paid subscribers. For nearly two years, Yahoo has introduced new products that people must pay to use. The company has also converted some free perks into paid services, such as extra photo storage and e-mail forwarding.

Selling premium services has been a priority for CEO Terry Semel. Earlier Thursday, the company launched Yahoo Mail Plus, a beefed up e-mail account service with 25MB to 100MB of storage, for which Yahoo will charge between $29.99 to $59.99 a year.

Semel, who joined the company last May, has repeatedly emphasized the importance of diversifying Yahoo's revenue stream by establishing paid relationships with its users. The company has shown some success in these efforts, as evidenced last quarter when Yahoo reported a 66 percent growth in paid-services revenue.

Yahoo Plus is still being tested, and no official launch date has been set, according to company spokeswoman Diana Lee. For now, Yahoo will advertise test versions of the product throughout its Web site to determine what works and what doesn't.

"Based on the feedback that we're going to collect, we're going to develop the product accordingly prior to any launch," Lee said in an interview.