By Eric Auchard
SAN FRANCISCO, May 1 (Reuters) Yahoo Inc. unveiled a shopping site for gadgets laced with plain-English advice by experts and user-contributed reviews, entering a market long dominated by tech-focused media firm CNet Networks Inc. .
Yahoo! Tech (http://tech.yahoo.com), as the new Yahoo property is known, marks the latest move by the world's biggest Internet media company to reinvigorate or expand into areas such as travel, finance, automobiles, and now technology.
Yahoo! Tech is set to offer hundreds of thousands of products with user product ratings and reviews through its Yahoo Shopping site, as well as question-and-answer guides and community features that exist within the wider Yahoo realm.
The site aims to set itself apart from jargon-filled gadget enthusiast sites by focusing on how to make technology easier to understand, the executive-in-charge said.
''What we are trying to do is to make it simple to choose and use the technology that is easiest to use,'' said Patrick Houston, general manager of Yahoo! Tech, a veteran journalist who, until a year ago was editor in chief of CNet.
''We built Yahoo! Tech for people who might not have the time nor inclination to learn about bits and bytes,'' he said.
The advice site draws heavily upon familiar Yahoo tools to help users search for and share information about prices and features with friends or family or other consumers.
It is designed to serve as the anchor across the Internet media giant's network of sites for technology advertising, a lucrative category that is among the most popular online markets for advertisers.
Already, big ad spenders Hewlett Packard , Verizon Wireless and Panasonic <6702.T> have signed up.
Yahoo plans to target demographic groups like ''moms,'' ''boomers,''''working guys'' or the fashion-conscious, consumers looking for electronics in one of 19 categories, including computers, mobile phones, digital cameras and music players.
The site has licensed reviews from the ''Dummies'' series of How-to books, Consumer Reports, PC World and PC Magazine.
Yahoo! Tech is focusing now on the U.S. market and there are no imminent plans to expand into other countries, Houston said.
Yahoo also plans to embed original video programming it is producing throughout the site.
One weekly program to be featured on the site, called ''Hook Me Up,'' gives consumers the chance to receive a ''technology makeover'' -- advice on what gadgets make sense in their lives from tech experts -- in three-to four-minute video episodes.
Highlighting Yahoo's growing Hollywood connections, Michael Davies, the producer of ''Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' and ''Wife Swap,'' has been hired to produce the ''Hook Me Up'' show.
''It is a challenge to CNet because it has been so dominant,'' said Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li. ''But what Yahoo is offering is very different. There is plenty of room in the marketplace for both,'' she said.
CNet shares suffered a 22 percent drop last week after it reported weak results and warned that it expected lower results for the rest of 2006, which it blamed on product delays by key vendors such as Microsoft Corp. and big video game makers.
Financial analyst Jordan Rohan of RBC Capital Markets in New York said in a note to clients last week that he was uncertain whether CNet was suffering merely a temporary setback or a long-term challenge to its advertising-based business.
''CNet continues to lose revenue share to the larger portals as it has limited exposure to fast growing advertiser categories such as finance and consumer packaged goods,'' he said of the threat to CNet from Yahoo and other Web networks.
REUTERS PV DS1153