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Yahoo drops "enhanced" personals fee

The Web portal says that in the next two months it will stop charging customers who post photos and use other features in their online personal ads.

Yahoo said Tuesday that it will stop charging customers who post photos and use other features in their online personal ads.

The Web portal said it has decided to drop the $4.95 fee, which let people create "enhanced ads" that would run for 45 days, after reviewing feedback from customers. The enhanced service allows people to place five photos and a background on an ad. The service also puts the paid ads near the top of search results to give members more exposure.

Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako said the company will make the enhanced service free in the next two months. It began charging for its enhanced service in October.

"After proactively seeking feedback from our users and evaluating the success of the service, we decided to offer features such as the ability to post multiple photos and customize ad backgrounds to all of our users," Osako said. "We value user feedback and will continue to initiate an open dialogue with users to continually add new features and enhance the Yahoo Personals service."

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company said it will keep charging customers for its other personal services. People can pay $19.95 a month, $42.95 for three months, or $89.95 a year if they want to respond to personal ads.

Yahoo's plan to drop its fee reverses its ongoing initiatives to capture additional revenue by charging for an array of premium services. The shift to fees has not always been successful. When the company began charging for its once-free auction listings, the service saw an immediate drop-off in popularity.

Still, the company continues to work toward a goal set by CEO Terry Semel: Make advertising revenue comprise only 50 percent of the company's total revenue by 2004. The company recently unveiled a pay-per-view search product that charges consumers between $1 and $4 to retrieve files from a specialized database of some 25 million research documents culled from 7,100 publications.