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New Offering by Yahoo Raises Ante for Content Providers

Yahoo continued to raise the ante for content portals on the Net with the launch yesterday of a new original multimedia series by the pasha of adventure travel Richard Bangs.

Bangs’ initial package for the content aggregator chronicles a climb of the Eiger by John Harlin III whose father died scaling the mountain 40 years ago.

The Bangs project follows another initiative into original content aired last month by Yahoo, “In the Hot Zone,” with Kevin Sikes. The long-time war correspondent is filing text-photo-video reports with Yahoo from beleaguered areas around the world.

Tales to Quicken Pulse

“We want to share stories that quicken the pulse and appeal to the growing interest in adventure travel,” Scott Moore, Yahoo’s vice president for content operations, said in a statement.

“We are attempting to use the Internet’s unique attributes as a rich storytelling medium to help consumers make discoveries that they wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to,” he added.

With these projects, Yahoo is clearly pushing the envelope for online content. “It’s almost like the tail wagging the dog,” observed Gartner Group analyst Allen Weiner.

Proof of Concept

When it comes to Web portals, he told TechNewsWorld, “Yahoo is the veteran of the business. They don’t look outside for a lot of direction.

“They’re trying to display a vision of what can be done so that other content providers will create content to fill this channel,” he opined.

“It’s not a Machiavellian plot to take over the world,” he said. “It’s an experiment to see how various elements of the medium can be leveraged to create this unique content.”

Smart Strategy

Hollis Thomases, president and founder of WebAdvantage.net in Havre De Grace, Md. called Yahoo’s new content plays a “smart strategy.”

Creating unique content like this isn’t new, she explained. It was done before the Internet bubble burst in 2000. The idea then was create great content, attract eyeballs and with eyeballs will come advertisers.

“In principle it was the right idea, but it really didn’t work,” she told TechNewsWorld. “A lot of the content was inaccessible with slow dial-up modems, a certain segment of the population wasn’t online and people weren’t as adept at getting their information online.”

MS Ahead of Curve

About nine years ago, Microsoft dabbled with original content with its MSN channels, Weiner recalled. “It didn’t work, not because the content wasn’t good, but they were way ahead of the broadband curve,” he explained.

Thomases reasoned that with broadband delivery growing, it makes sense to revisit this strategy.

“Nowadays, when a media buyer is doing a media plan,” she said, “if you don’t include Yahoo in some form or fashion, you’re missing a great way to reach your target market.”

According to industry figures, in September in the United States, Yahoo attracted 99.3 million users, compared to 89.4 million for MSN, 79.4 million for Google and 72.5 million for AOL.

From Gypsies to Sweepstakes Winners

Richard Bangs Adventures will be a monthly feature on Yahoo.

In November, Bangs will follow the sea gypsies of the Andaman Islands and tell the story of their survival during the tragic tsunami of 2004.

In December, the documentarian will chronicle the exploits of the family that wins the Casio Richard Bangs Adventures sweepstakes as they search for centuries-old treasure through the heart of Panama.

Graduation Time

Bangs, who recently co-directed the IMAX film “Mystery of the Nile,” explained that the stories he’s producing for Yahoo have greater texture than conventional tales.

“Movies and television are fantastic at story-telling, but now all these different media can be combined into one format and allow the user to decide for himself where and when and how he wants to experience the story, he explained.

Although he’s worked on spot projects for Microsoft over the last nine years, Bangs sees better prospects at Yahoo. “It’s a bigger playing field with better tools and more integration and better possibilities,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“This, in my mind, is a graduation to the major leagues,” he said.

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