By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2006-02-15 Print this article Print

First, thin margins today force the bribes to be pretty lightweight. What is Yahoo proposing? Elimination of Yahoo ads. Nice idea, but most customers have gotten quite adept at ignoring those ads, so Im not so sure the removal of them will be such a lure. Also, if ad revenue becomes substantial, will Yahoo stand by this offer if tons of people take them up on it? It seems to be one of those offers that only works if its not especially successful.
Removal of ads would be more of a lure for, say, or ABC News, where users have to sit through commercials before they watch a news report. Then again, those two sites used to offer commercial-free viewing in exchange for a fee and that didnt work too well for them, either.
Unlimited Yahoo Mail storage.This is better, but storage is so cheap today that, again, this may not be much of a lure. And, like ad removal, it seems like it wont be sustainable if its wildly popular. Outlook access to Yahoo Mail. Sorry, no dice. That should—and, in my opinion, will—be offered to all Yahoo users soon enough. No true incentive there. Five free music downloads from Yahoo Music. Cmon, guys. A handful of free downloads from your own music service? Youd offer that to anyone as a marketing come-on. No impressive incentive there. Yahoo is also offering a discounted subscription to its music service. Same argument. Donations to charity. This has the most potential, but read Yahoos fine print: "Yahoo will give a percentage of the revenues generated from your searches to a nonprofit organization of your choice." Lets set aside for the moment that the percentage being donated is not specified. The greater concern is "revenues generated from your searches." Direct? Indirect? It cant be ad revenue because theyre already saying it will include no ads. Theres no subscription revenue because its all free. So what revenue are they referencing? How will it be measured? How will the user know? Wont it likely be so infinitesimal as to be irrelevant? A $5 PC-to-phone calling credit per month. This is a come-on to use Yahoo Messenger with Voice. If they gave users unlimited usage for a year, that would be an incentive (maybe). But $5 a month? Thats not even an especially aggressive marketing come-on, let alone a usage incentive. Netflix discount. They are considering a free first month and then a $7 monthly discount. No great lure there, unless the customer was going to be using Netflix anyway. Discounted Yahoo Personals subscription. Free first month if you agree to pay $20 per month thereafter. Hardly much of an incentive to ditch Google. 250 Frequent Flyer miles each month. OK, this has some good potential. The number is a bit thin, but at least its not a promo for some Yahoo service. Make this 2,500 miles a month and Yahoo may be onto something. Even with a solid miles program or the always-attractive cash payment (which Yahoo has not mentioned), the practical reality is that search has taken on a huge importance today. If people believe that Google will deliver the best answer more quickly, theyll use Google and theyll leave the $2.89 in incentives on the table. But if people believe that all engines are essentially the same—which they pretty much do today—and Yahoo makes these incentives real and substantial, they may just prove that while money cant buy love, it may indeed be able to buy a healthy heaping of search loyalty. Evan Schuman is retail editor for Ziff Davis Internets Enterprise Edit group. He has tracked high-tech issues since 1987, has been opinionated long before that and doesnt plan to stop anytime soon. He can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.

Evan Schuman is the editor of's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel