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Yahoo shelves for-fee research service

The paid service is the portal giant's latest casualty in a veritable test lab of for-fee services. Meanwhile, the company is testing out new features for search.

Yahoo nixed its paid document-search service after only eight months, its latest for-fee service to bite the dust.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company said that this week it stopped offering Premium Document Search, a service introduced in January in partnership with Northern Light, a publication database. The two companies sold access through Yahoo to some 25 million research documents from 7,100 publications, for between $1 and $4 each.

The service is the newest casualty in a veritable test lab of paid and subscription services on major Web sites, which are seeking to offset a continuing slump in advertising sales. With the technology and ad downturn in the last two years, Net publishers have attempted to convert popular free services and information into revenue sources, with some success. But in other cases, Web operators have encountered resistance in turning visitors used to free services into paid subscribers.

Earlier this year, Yahoo phased out fees for enhanced personal ads after poor reception from customers. The company has also pared back on auction prices and restored a free version of its person-to-person payment system after an eight-month paid trial.

Still, the company tests new for-fee services almost regularly in a bid to diversify revenue.

Yahoo in May started selling access to archived articles from The New York Times, for example. In addition, the company is seeking to improve its navigation technology for news and information.

Shaping up search
In recent months, Yahoo began testing new features for search, including adding direct links to news and weather when visitors input specific queries such as "New York weather" or "George Bush." It is also experimenting with Rich Site Summary (RSS), an XML specification used for distributing news and discussion threads, on its Yahoo Finance site. The technology allows other Web sites, such as Web bloggers, to "scrape" news headlines and links from Yahoo pages. The links then direct the reader to content on Yahoo pages.

The closure of Premium Document Search means the end of Yahoo's relationship with Northern Light, which is owned by Divine, according to both companies.

Questions have been raised as to whether Yahoo closed the service as a result of complaints by the National Writer's Union, which says that authors are not being compensated properly for works distributed on the Web. A Yahoo representative said that such complaints did not factor in the decision, however.

"Currently premium document search is no longer part of Yahoo's search offering," a Yahoo representative said. "But we are constantly testing services and products to evaluate what provides the most value to consumers for their overall search experience. We continue to offer consumers several research services across the network such as archived news in Yahoo News and product reviews in our commerce area."