Yahoo! Debuts New Dating Service

Yahoo! on Tuesday night launched a premium online dating service for the growing number of serious daters in the United States. Singles--totaling nearly 90 million, according to the Census Bureau--can now access "Personals Premier," which includes advanced searching and matching features.

The service will be free until the end of January 2005, at which time it will cost $34.95 a month, compared to $19.95 a month for subscriptions to Yahoo!'s non-premier dating site.

Yahoo! spent 18 months working closely with weAttract, a tech firm specializing in psychologically based intelligent software, determining the core needs and wants of serious daters--a group Yahoo! admits it has underserved until now.

"Personals has worked really well for casual Kellys--what we call more casual singles--and now, with Personals Premier, we can meet the needs of relationship Jeffs, who are looking for quality people, deeper relationships, greater control over the process, and a way to quickly gauge compatibility," said Lorna Borenstein, vice president and general manager of Yahoo! Personals.

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Spending on online dating reached $227.9 million in the first half of this year--up 6.4 percent from the first half of 2003, according to the Online Publishers Association. But that increase is not nearly as high as in prior years.

Separately, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo! confirmed published reports that it tapped WPP Group's OgilvyOne to handle online creative duties. The assignment--the billings for which were not disclosed--represents work that had been handled in-house, according to a Yahoo! spokeswoman. She said that OgilvyOne will be responsible for online creative for Yahoo! properties such as Personals, HotJobs, and Launch, and contribute to creative for the overall Yahoo! brand, which is led by OgilvyOne sibling Soho Square.

The spokeswoman said that online media buying and planning will remain in-house at Yahoo! in consultation with OgilvyOne. To accommodate the Yahoo! assignment, OgilvyOne on Wednesday announced the opening of a San Francisco office under the aegis of Mark Yesayian, who was named managing director of the new office. Yesayian was senior vice president, agency services at Digital Impact, San Mateo, Calif., prior to OgilvyOne.

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