AOL Yellow Pages lets your fingers do the clicking

Directory assistance services for millions of Internet users were upgraded with several new features Tuesday as America Online Inc. (AOL) debuted the newest version of AOL Yellow Pages across the various brands of its parent company, AOL Time Warner Inc. (AOLTW)One of the major goals of this release was to provide seamless access to AOL Yellow Pages across all AOLTW brands, for customers that include AOL's approximately 33 million members, and visitors to such Web sites as AOL.com and netscape.com, said Kathie Brockman, a spokeswoman for AOL. Both members and nonmembers of AOL will have access to the same set of features, she said.

One key feature of the new service is the ability to store up to three addresses with the site, so driving directions to directory listings can be provided through AOL's subsidiary Mapquest.com Inc., said Brockman.

Another new feature provides movie show times and ticket-ordering services through AOL Moviefone, which has theater information, and users will also now be able to post reviews for businesses listed on the site.

Despite citing a shrinking advertising market for lowered financial expectations in 2001 and 2002 by parent company AOLTW Tuesday. AOL will seek a piece of the growing online directory ad market. This market was estimated at US$425 million for 2001 by The Kelsey Group, in figures cited by AOL. Unlike other content-oriented Web sites which rely solely on banner and pop-up ads for advertising revenue, online directories can charge companies to list their contact information, and ensure targeted advertising by matching ads for a particular product or service with the results of a user's search for that product or service.

The technology will be hosted by Switchboard Inc., building upon an alliance between AOL and Switchboard signed in December of 2000. InfoUSA.com Inc., a lead-generation Internet service, will provide the back-end data, such as business and consumer names and phone numbers for the project.

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