The Future of Yahoo News = Media + Tech

August 15, 2012

yahoo, marissa mayer,


Media or tech company? Yahoo’s recent CEO hire of ex-Google exec Marissa Mayer put some punch back into its logo and clarified brand identity questions. Mayer’s new company holds the No. 3 in the search engine rankings, but leads as a content provider in more than ten categories including news, finance, sports, entertainment and real estate, according to comScore.

Yahoo Media and Mayer may be a happy marriage of media and tech as news consumption and conversation grows online. Mayer’s appointment came as a surprise to some who assumed the promotion of media world’s Ross Levinsohn, who had been serving as interim CEO of Yahoo. A technology executive who formerly ran News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media, Levinsohn left Yahoo in late July. Mayer is already making moves to ensure doubters that media will be a priority during her reign.

The Yahoo Company is currently split between Silicon Valley’s Sunnyvale and SoCal’s Santa Monica, the latter being the hub of media operations. California is to the tech world what New York is to the media world. With a majority of the company in Silicon Valley, including her office, Mayer looks to strengthen its East Coast presence by moving its media headquarters to join the smaller satellite office in New York. Yahoo News hopes to take advantage of Santa Monica and New York operations and integrate the bi-coastal news coverage even more. The company shift to the media capital of the world signals Yahoo’s focus on news content. The move also provides a fresh chance to allow media and tech to work together, a problem that has held back Yahoo Media in the past.

Mayer also responded to questions of content vs. code with internal promotions of Hillary Frey and Aaron Task to editor-in-chiefs of Yahoo News and Yahoo Finance. A former managing editor for Adweek, Frey envisions Yahoo News as a hub for original journalism, a newsroom instead of a blog network.

Original content now makes up 70% of the content on the website. Yahoo News political team roster boasts big-name journalists including David Chalian, Jeff Greenfield, Olivier Knox and Walter Shapiro. While their newsroom numbers are nowhere near competitor AOL's Huffington Post, Yahoo News content still leads in popularity.

Yahoo News’ 2012 election coverage plans were released last November with Levinsohn’s endorsement of Yahoo News as the source for all things political. Titled “The Ticket, Destination 2012 from Yahoo News,” the webpage highlights original content, as well as media from National Journal, The Daily Caller and Yahoo’s partner ABC News. “The Express Ticket” is a blogroll with the latest commentary and analysis from Yahoo News journalists, while “The Signal” merges tech research and prediction models to keep up-to-date on national opinions and predictions.

Yahoo possesses astronomical potential to succeed in media, simply because they have the talent of tech on their side. The Signal’s ability to pull real time data is a creation of Yahoo! Labs’ cloud technology. Data in combination with quality expert analysis provides a tangible, quick connection with content consumers and future voters. 

Going forward, if Yahoo Media and Mayer can focus their efforts on drawing in users and advertisers, they could be unstoppable. While they don't have the social capability of Google and Google+, they are already utilizing Facebook’s Social PlugIn to initiate conversation among their viewers. “The Ticket” has almost 40,000 likes on Facebook, dozens of comments on stories, and surely happy advertisers. Journalism has become a conversation and capitalizing on social interactions is key for Yahoo News’ coverage.

So question whether Yahoo is a media or tech company is irrelevant. It is both and must integrate both to succeed. As the election unfolds, we will to wait and see if Yahoo Media + Mayer will bask in the honeymoon glow or if early signs of trouble will surface. As with all marriages, I’m hoping for the former. 

Best wishes.