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Yahoo launches senior site

The search directory company expands its reach to the growing and potentially lucrative market of older adults.

Net giant Yahoo (YHOO) today expanded its reach to another potentially lucrative market: seniors.

The search company-cum-Web-based online service and content aggregator today launched Yahoo Seniors' Guide, which it is billing as a "meeting place for active, older adults."

With competition fierce among Internet companies to garner eyeballs and the advertising dollars that come with them, firms such as Yahoo and its rivals--including Excite and online service America Online as well as Netscape Communications, Microsoft, and others--are trying every trick in the book to attract loyal users.

Features such as personalization and free email, once considered special, are now the norm, and sites are constantly searching for the Next Big Thing to differentiate themselves.

Yahoo Seniors' Guide offers 13 content categories--such as Entertainment and Arts, Finance and Investment, Gardening, Genealogy, Health, Recreation and Sports, and Travel--as well as headlines and stories from the news division of Third Age, a leading Web resource for people over 50. Also on the site are bulletin boards and chat.

Adults over 50 represent about 14 percent of the Net population in North America, which translates to roughly 7 million to 9 million people, according to Third Age spokesman Bryan Preston, who cited research by Find/SVP.

"The exciting thing about the over-50 population is that--aside from sheer numbers, since a Baby Boomer turns 50 every seven-and-a-half seconds--83 percent of Net users 50 and older log on daily," Preston said. "Their time per session is as high or higher than their younger counterparts. And they're buying online."

Rob McHugh, senior producer for Yahoo Seniors' Guide, cited similar factors in Yahoo's decision to target seniors, and added that user demand also played a part.

"We saw that more and more people from this demographic were getting on the Web and using Yahoo," McHugh said. "They stay on the Web longer, they're more likely to buy on the Web, and they're more likely to use our services, such as free email and stock quotes."

He added that Netizens 50 and older spend roughly ten hours per week online, pointing to a recent Third Age study.

Yvette DeBow, an analyst with Jupiter Communications, sees the new site as a good strategic move for Yahoo.

"It's a trend within Yahoo to really segment itself within various demographics," DeBow said. "They did it for kids with Yahooligans, and for women with Beatrice's Web Guide, which [Yahoo] did with Women.com.

"Creating an online service directed at women, for example, they were able to bring in advertisers who wanted to reach that market specifically," she added. "With seniors, there are advertisers who want to address that market as well."

The over-50 group is desirable to advertisers because "they are the ones with more disposable income," DeBow said. Preston cited research that shows the 50-plus market represents more than $1.6 trillion in buying power.

Some of the features on the Yahoo Seniors' Guide include the following:

  • Top Picks: sites within each of the 13 categories.

  • Community Boards: interactive message boards where users can discuss subjects such as current events, computer tips, books, travel, and finance.

  • Today's News: targeted news relevant to seniors from providers such as Reuters and the Third Age News Service.

  • Daily Detour: crossword puzzles, horoscopes, lottery results, Dilbert cartoons, and a This Day in History feature.

    McHugh said more features will be added to the Seniors' Guide, based on user demand.

    "We'll be asking our audience, 'What more do you want?' And we'll try to provide it," he said, noting that focus groups "online and face-to-face" have been "key" to its development of targeted content.

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