Challenging An Internet Goliath

In this video game image released by MTV Games, a scene is shown from "The Beatles: Rock Band." (AP Photo/MTV Games) AP Photo/MTV Games

The businessman who salvaged the Excite Network from one of the Internet's biggest bankruptcies is launching a new Web site targeted at disaffected Yahoo! users.

"Yahoo! is Toast" is the theme of an aggressive new advertising campaign introducing MyWay.com, a new online portal that replicates many of Yahoo's popular features without ads, fees and intrusive privacy policies.

MyWay.com will instead find profits through pay-for-placement listings in its search function, which is powered by Google, said Bill Daugherty, who also founded the popular online sweepstakes site iWon.com.

The antagonistic radio-and-print campaign debuted Tuesday and will continue through Nov. 27 in 38 major markets, including Sunnyvale-based Yahoo's home turf in the Silicon Valley.

Daugherty, co-CEO of Irvington, N.Y.-based Bulldog Holdings Inc., is certain the marketing push will touch a nerve with Web surfers who feel betrayed by a series of changes Yahoo has made under a new management team to survive the tech meltdown.

Yahoo now charges for many once-free services and peppers its site with a variety of ads that slow the site's loading speed. Yahoo offers fee-based services such as personal ads, the HotJobs career-search site, enhanced e-mail and game rentals. The company also loosened its privacy policies so it could sell more of the information collected about its registered users.

"No Web site has changed its relationship more dramatically in the past two years than Yahoo has," Daugherty said.

Yahoo, not surprisingly, sees things differently, pointing to the Internet icon's huge online audience and the growing number of visitors willing to pay for services as a validation of its ongoing popularity.

In September, Yahoo ranked as the Web's third most popular destination, after Microsoft and AOL Time Warner, attracting 60.7 million unique visitors accessing the Internet from home, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

Yahoo pegs its worldwide audience at 201 million, a 7 percent increase from last year. Visitors also don't seem especially concerned about Yahoo selling their personal information to third parties. Yahoo says 93 million registered users logged on to its site in September, a 37 percent increase from the same time last year.

In the same statement, Yahoo said it doubts MyWay will be able to duplicate the "breadth and depth of the engaging, comprehensive and relevant services" offered by its site.

"A simple ad-free site does not provide value to consumers' lives if it does not incorporate the leading technology, compelling products or an understanding of consumers," Yahoo said.

Daugherty has established a solid track record since hitting the Internet scene four years ago. His company quickly made a splash with iWon, which gives away $10,000 per day, and expanded its Web presence late last year with the $10 million purchase of Excite.com from bankrupt At Home Corp.

IWon and Excite rank among the Web's 25 most popular destinations, attracting a combined 7.6 million unique visitors in September, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

The privately held Excite Network has been profitable 14 consecutive months, according to Daugherty, although he won't disclose specifics.

Daugherty thinks he will substantially expand his company's reach by using MyWay to woo away disillusioned Yahoo users. MyWay looks like a clutter-free version of Yahoo, offering all the standard features of a Web portal without advertising.

The ad-free environment enables MyWay's page to load on Web browsers quicker than Yahoo and present more news headlines on the home page.

MyWay also intends to keep overhead low. The entire Excite Network, which the company says is the Internet's eighth largest in terms of daily visitors, employs just 157 workers. Yahoo, in comparison, employs just under 3,600 workers worldwide.

"Once we get the word out, people are going to start coming to MyWay and they are going to like what they see," he predicted. "If people spend just three minutes at MyWay, they won't go back to Yahoo again."
  • Dan Collins

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