Yahoo’s News Strategy – A Classic Media Playbook

So last week at CES in Las Vegas we found out from Marissa Mayer where Yahoo is heading and it feels like she is taking a classic media playbook, giving it a new setting and finally using the technology and talent acquisitions she has made since becoming captain of the ship. But what will the outcome be? As ever in technology, we don’t know but it will be fun to watch.

The company has seen its far share of change since “David and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” was renamed Yahoo in 1995. Recent years have been tough with a management revolving door giving the company 6 CEOs in 7 years and a strategy which matched its uncertain leadership. Mayer has had her critics since taking over in July 2012 but I like her and think she is giving Yahoo the type of transformational leadership required to secure a future.

Verticals

After 18 months of high profile acquisitions and hirings Mayer has revealed during her keynote at CES that Yahoo would focus on some key mainstream verticals as well as refining mobile and desktop news products and move more into premium content, both video and written. There was the launch of Yahoo Tech and the introduction of Yahoo Food which I am sure will be the start of many mainstream verticals for Yahoo.

I like the approach they are taking at least with the Tech vertical which will basically be a magazine that comes out every day. That means there will be a finite number of articles and other content per day, but no breaking news stories, according to the boss David Pogue.

It is clear that the Tumblr platform will play a big part in this development, as it’s what Yahoo Tech was built on and it’s nice to see them launching a new News Digests product which is based on the technology from the Summly acquisition, the company founded by british teenager  Nick D’Aloisio.

Talent

Joining Marissa Mayer on stage were two of her latest human capital acquisitions, the veteran TV broadcaster Katie Couric and David Pogue, the long serving New York Times gadget columnist who launched Yahoo Tech. Mayer has persuaded both to leave other legacy media brands and join her in the journey Yahoo is on. Good on her I say. Obviously she is betting on them and several others who are sure to follow to create the quality and compelling original content which Yahoo will need to establish themselves as a serious media player for the future.

Old Media Playbook

So there you have it. Yahoo have taken a classic media playbook, which any publisher would be proud of. They have bet on the mainstream media verticals with their high media consumption demand and associated advertising dollar potential . Be sure to expect some more to be added over the coming months and years.

To that they have added some quality journalists who should produce great content and more importantly bring with them a significant audience which will provide the eyeballs they need.

We have seen it before from most media down the decades when they have transitioned from different distribution mechanisms right back to the printing press, radio, tv and the online world. Many have employed the same strategy – some with great success and others not. Who knows what will happen?

I for one hope she succeeds but if not there could be another option. I have a funny feeling that once another sleeping giant, Microsoft get there own CEO search sorted a look in Yahoo’s direction may not be a bad idea. They already work together on search and the new Microsoft boss will no doubt be exploring ways to exploit the content opportunity, as well as using their cash pile wisely and minimising their tax bill. It may be the case that Marissa Mayer could be doing all the leg work for them and Yahoo would make a great acquisition target… back to 2008 I hear you all say. Well that would be one way to take on their friends at Google and Apple anyway. Now theres a 2014 media prediction for you. 

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3 Comments »

  1. Good! Some interesting thoughts and I wouldn’t be surprised if your Microsoft predictions comes true. And yes, she is on a classic and traditional approach to the leading into the future. Now, Mayer just needs to understand that the workplace has changed and people will want to work from home and have more flexibility in their planning of a workday. Remember she denied that some weeks ago. Just today, I wrote on Twitter “Lead by the power of your employees’ imagination and insights, not the challenges you were given.” Somehow Mayer sees that, somehow not. There is still way to improve for Yahoo and Mayer in my eyes.

    • You know I agree with your there. Looking at her history I doubt Mayer ever believed in the ‘no working from the home’ change that she made last year and think it will probably be a very temporary measure. Probably suggested to her by an HR division that simply did not know what to do with an organisation with a huge amount of unengaged employees that simply did not see a future and were just milking their pay checks. Pretty sure she will go back to Google ways soon and I hope her tech and talent acquisitions work out for her as well as her media strategy. However I know there are many out there who are just wanting to see her fail. I am not one of them.

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