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Yahoo! is going head-to-head with Google again by launching a new service which enables webmasters to earn additional income by displaying ads on their sites.

The search company has signalled its attempt to win more of the online advertising market by releasing a service that will directly compete with Google's AdSense programme.

Initially available in the US through an invitation-only beta, the Yahoo! Publisher Network platform allows users to sign up online for Yahoo! advertising products and receive access to other syndicated Yahoo! content and products. Through the new service, webmasters and bloggers will have access to the same large advertising network, content and applications capabilities that Yahoo! uses.

The first advertising product Yahoo! will be offering through the beta is its "Content Match" contextual listings. Content Match enables publishers to place Yahoo's contextually-relevant listings on their sites and receive a share of the revenue generated by them.

However, in addition to allowing webmasters and bloggers to generate income through ads, the Yahoo! Publisher Network will also provide access to other Yahoo! products such as the "Add to My Yahoo!" feature which allows users to distribute content via RSS and the "YQ Beta" search product. The company has also said it will offer additional features in the future including a 'Save to My Web" feature and a web search tool.

"Yahoo! has developed many highly successful relationships with web publishers around the world, and is building on those experiences to bring new revenue sources and compelling content to even more high quality sites," said Bill Demas, senior vice president, Yahoo! Partner Solutions group. "By helping the broader publishing community maximise the value of their sites, we aim to create an even more rewarding internet experience for publishers, advertisers and users."

The launch of the service could prove troublesome for Google which has seen its profits soar in recent years because of its sponsored advertising platform. Through its AdSense programmes, Google's partner sites generated $630m in the second quarter of 2005, equivalent to 46 per cent of total revenues.

Yahoo! and Google are engaged in a ferocious battle to win over the hearts and minds of mobile and internet users. In recent months, both companies have launched video and SMS search services and personal search engines. In addition, Yahoo! also locked horns with Google in a war to provide increased storage to users of their respective webmail services. Yahoo! boosted its storage to 1GB to meet Google's Gmail limits earlier this year, but just days later Google went one better by increasing its storage capacity to 2GB.

However, in terms of the profitable paid-advertising market, it's more than just a two-way fight. Ask Jeeves has just launched a new keyword-based advertising programme for its search service which is comparable to Google's Adwords programme, while MSN is rumoured to be launching a number of similar services sometime soon.

© ENN

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