Yahoo! News has released a new beta version of their popular news site to the public this week. The new design features quick access to a variety of topics via tabbed navigation and the ability to customize the news categories that appear on the front page.

One of the most practical new features is the ability to view the headlines from a variety of news sources without having to click thru to new pages. For example, in the "Top Stories" section of the page, there are tabbed buttons that will automatically load news from AFP, Reuters, the Associated Press and a variety of other sources into the "Top Stories" box without the user ever leaving the page. The tabbed option appears in each of the topical news boxes so that users can quickly skim through the latest news from their favorite sources without jumping from page to page.

As with the current version of Yahoo! news, the page is fully customizable. Users can set their location to receive the latest weather forecasts, add and remove news categories, change the page layout, and even add their own news sources from a list of available sites. Unfortunately, when I tried to go in and set my local weather to display a Columbus forecast instead of the NYC forecast that showed by default, I received an error message that said I couldn't update my weather choices at this time. Similar errors appeared when I tried to customize my news sources, though after the third attempt, I was able to access the list and add a few sites to my news page.

I also noticed that Yahoo!'s new YQ technology has been added to the news stories that are showing up on the site. YQ was designed to link words and phrases to additional information about a topic via the Yahoo! offering of sites. Clicking on a bolded phrase or the purple button that appears next to it will create a pop-up option that searches Yahoo! for related results. For example, when I selected the phrase "Alzheimer's disease" from an article that I was reading, the pop-up box displayed links to information about the disease via Yahoo! Health along with the latest news headlines and links to search news photos, the image database, or the entire Web.

Unlike Google's automated news aggregation service, which spiders news based sites and compiles a list of search results that link directly to stories on other Web sites, Yahoo! news features a mix of content and links. Yahoo! pays syndication fees to popular news services like AFP and Reuters in order to gain the right to display the full text of a story on the site. (And to gain the ad revenues that come with the extra page views.) The increased customization options in the new beta version of Yahoo! news are likely to attract some new users while further strengthening their place in the hearts of current Yahoo! users.

There's no word yet on when the beta version of the site will go live, but it's likely to be within the next month. Yahoo! News is currently the most visited news property on the Web, but is facing growing challenges from competitors like MSNBC, Google and even CNN.com, which was overpowered by Yahoo! last year.

Check out the beta version of Yahoo! news at http://beta.news.yahoo.com/

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April 15, 2005





Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.







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