As Google continues to pull away in the search battle, its one-time rival Yahoo is left grasping for other ways to profit. Its newest scheme is to harness its vast array of content and build out 100 brand-focused sites, in a project dubbed Brand Universe. Example sites include ones focused on the Nintendo Wii or the TV show Lost. The sites, says Yahoo, will serve as places for fans to get information and hang out with each other. So Yahoo is re-creating the fan site, plenty of which already exist elsewhere on the internet. Except that while those can draw their content from a wide range of sources, Yahoo's sites will only have content from a select group of content providers with whom the company enters into deals. Basically, it sounds like Yahoo thinks it has a bunch of content that is somehow getting lost among all of its properties (not hard to imagine, since Yahoo has such a plethora of disparate sites and services), and it's looking for new ways to draw traffic and sell advertising. Because these sites will be cheap to put up, and won't require the company to create any original content, the economics of it doesn't differ all that much from splogs, which throw up content on a site and hope to draw some traffic to it. Another angle to watch is that the company says it will seek ways of cutting the brand owners in on the revenue of the site, which is basically a move to mollify any company that might be irate about Yahoo profiting from its brand. Under the law, Yahoo is probably in the clear, but it doesn't want to offend any future advertisers. Of course, if Yahoo does sign licensing deals with these brands then it puts pressure on other fan sites to do the same, much like YouTube's deal with the record labels upon its sale to Google turned up the heat on its rivals. Yahoo seems to be having an identity problem, as it can't decide whether it's a content company, or something more ambitious. So it ends up manufacturing products that offer little fresh value to its users, and don't do much for its own competitive position.
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