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Yahoo's Mayer Highlights Content, Advertising, in Splashy Keynote

Yahoo's Mayer Highlights Content, Advertising, in Splashy Keynote

"I think Marissa Mayer's been pretty consistent since she's been aboard," said tech analyst Roger Kay. "People have faulted her in various ways -- they say she's been a micromanager -- but her public persona is very good. And so she's able to present with some kind of star power, and she brings in some other people that have that kind of presence -- and that makes a pretty good show."

By Kris Holt E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
01/08/14 1:12 PM PT

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has charted the course for her company's future, and the focus is more on media than technology.

She revealed a number of new products and digital magazines during her keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas with a number of guests turning up to help make announcements.

Simplifying Content

Mayer reported that Yahoo has acquired Aviate, a startup that organizes apps based on how people interact with their phones. The technology will be used in Yahoo's apps to suggest content.

The acquisition is part of the company's apparent strategy to simplify and make sense of the overwhelming amount of content and data slung at consumers, a refrain Mayer revisited several times during the event.

Katie Couric, the journalist Yahoo hired to anchor Yahoo News, appeared on stage during the hour-long event to discuss some of the reasons she joined the company. Couric drove home the point that Yahoo is "reimagining how we take original and curated content and deliver it on mobile."

'Blend of Tech, Journalism'

Yahoo News Digest is a new app designed to deliver top news stories twice daily. It's editorially curated and algorithmically digested to give what product manager Nick D'Alosio (creator of Summly, the news summarizing app sold to Yahoo last year) called "the perfect blend between technology and journalism."

Yahoo also has launched two new digital magazines focusing on food and technology. David Pogue, the former New York Times reporter recruited to run Yahoo's technology section, demonstrated how the new site looks and spoke of his desire to create a tech news outlet aimed at "normals" without much in the way of specs clogging up reviews and news.

Unified Ad Platform

On the technology side, Mayer revealed some ad products aimed at driving revenue, which will nestle with all of its new editorial offerings. The ad products will settle under a single brand, Yahoo Advertising. It includes Yahoo Ad Manager, a platform designed to help advertisers manage the types of ads in their inventories, better enabling them to reach their ideal customers.

The firm is also expanding the ad platform on Tumblr, the blogging-platform-cum-social-network it bought last year. Yahoo Advertising features are being extended to Tumblr's sponsored posts to afford marketers opportunities to target users based on gender and location, among other demographic categories.

'SNL' Star Guests

Yahoo's glossy presentation also brought Saturday Night Live stars and singer John Legend on stage to entertain the audience.

The keynote spoke volumes about Yahoo's focus and strategy.

'Work in Progress'

"Certainly, with no control over their search results -- since that contract's already been given to Bing -- they need to position themselves as something other than a search engine," Greg Jarboe, president and cofounder of SEO-PR, told the E-Commerce Times.

"Content is certainly a hot topic -- it keeps them relevant. Executing on that is a work in progress. The other guys who have adopted a similar strategy -- and it seems to be working for them -- are AOL," he said.

"If you aren't focused on mobile, you're still focused on the wrong thing," Jarboe continued. "This is the year where the number of people who access the Internet via mobile will probably exceed the number of people who access the Internet from desktop or laptop. Everybody in the industry had better be focused on the smartphone or the tablet as the first screen as opposed to the second screen. The jury's still out on whether Yahoo will execute on that strategy, but it's the right one."

Playing Catch-Up

"They're trying to a lot of things simultaneously, which I think is necessary," Greg Sterling, principal analyst of Sterling Market Intelligence, told the E-Commerce Times.

"Some of those are playing catch-up (e.g., in mobile). They're also trying to emphasize their uniqueness in the market for consumers and advertisers. From a brand and content standpoint, they're doing a decent job. I think they've got the most work to do with advertisers," he said.

"I think their Aviate acquisition is really interesting and gives them some unique opportunities on Android devices, depending on how aggressive and ambitious they want to be," Sterling added. "They could do a better version of Facebook Home with it, for example."

Strong Public Persona

The bombastic keynote itself was a point of conversation for many.

"The stock's been up, so a lot of people have confidence in the company now that they didn't before," Roger L. Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, told the E-Commerce Times.

"She said the things she was obligated to say about moving into mobile, increasing advertising, more platforms -- the sort of requirements a content company has," he noted.

"Yahoo has been positioned various times in the past as a software company. I think that's a lot less true now than it was before," Kay reflected. "When it started using search technology from Microsoft, Yahoo wasn't confident that it had enough good technology in house and had to out and partner for some. There was a sort of ceding of a high ground in technology, and an acknowledgment that -- for example -- Google had figured out search in a way they couldn't match."


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