To clarify: for instance, an average, normal, web-surfing person goes to their default browser page at MSN...are they likely to contain their search within the directory results and be satisfied or are they whizzing past the "paid" stuff to get to the other "paid" stuff....ink pages.
The numbers on my ink pages suggests a fair amount do.
The question arises from the fact that I believe we may have hit the point of commercial saturation in the paid directories (ODP too). The fact that the price is high to get in almost eliminates anyone except those with a cash flow in their future from their site.
Does John Q "sense" that he's being "set up" with all the "paid" "hand reviewed" stuff? (Exclude the Overto.com results for this argument - that's another thing altogether)
Does John Q. have an innate sense of "fairness" about him that drives him to look for more democratic results?
Has all the "force-feeding" of web advertising made John Q. numb to the stuff that gets presented "at the top"?
As willtell said who cares? If the results are relevant then thats fine. The problem is that at MSN (Look$marts biggest customer) I don't believe the results are up to par. It is a very poor engine to find stuff with....that reflects heavily upon L$.
Yahoo is the opposite. Do you get referrals from the Y? directory? If you said yes then chances are you're an ecommerce type site. Yahoo is a huge online flea market and tons of John Q's go there to find stuff. But once again the results can be dated and the overall experience "carnivalesque".
From a user experience point of view where would you go to find stuff?