Thursday, April 22, 2010

What is Yahoo?

Yahoo seems to me to be the newspaper of the Internet with a few other added services attached like email, search, messaging, Flickr, and Groups. I do not think you can discount search because is still highly used especially outside the US, email because it is a strong player in this market, or Flickr because it is an excellent photo web site. But essentially most of the space on the Yahoo site is dedicated to information and it has many of the similarities of an old time newspaper like providing news, sports, weather, finance, comics, cooking, and classifieds (Personals, HotJobs, and Autos). It also has a very generalized, national, middle of the road feel. Sort of like the USA Today. It is essentially the average American’s news source on the Internet. Other people offer this type of service like AOL, and MSN but Yahoo seems to do it the best, have the widest selection of information, and get the most viewers.

Yahoo has improved the news viewing experience over the traditional newspaper. It has allowed people to click on videos, send information via email or to Facebook, to sort and to focus on information, and to get more information via a search engine so it is in fact an enhancement over the existing generalized newspaper and the user can do this for free, which is very powerful. The one weakness which Yahoo has is the ability to go local. This is also a weakness of USA Today. Yahoo can in some instances be local via search or select content but essentially its strengths are in wide reaching content and brand advertising.

As the devices that people view content on change so does the situations in which they view content. When a new content viewing technology comes out the initial response is to replicate the old content on the new technology. Examples include: Radio on TV, Newspapers on the Internet. But over time the advantages of the new technology are recognized and the content and advertising is changed to best suit this new technology. The content companies that are best at adapting to the new technology gain the most market share. The two devices that are changing the way people view content are the smart phone and the tablet.

The smart phone changes the way people access information because it is personal to that individual, carried with that person, and can sense location. This makes local information a much more important component. It is true that Yahoo has a local component on its mobile web site, but it does not capture the essence of local the way that some sites can like Where or Yelp! Some of the key attributes that attract the local users include sports, weather, social, directions, and micro communities. In essence local has to come alive on a mobile phone to draw people’s eyes to it. The creation of content on such a micro level will be a nearly impossible task, so Yahoo needs to be an aggregator, organizer, deliverer, and communicator of this local content. An example of a company which does this for sports is Fan Feedr. The service essentially puts every relevant posting on the Internet for a particular sports team in the palm of your hand, and sends updates of team scores. This can be done for community and social information as well. Yahoo also needs to have a more interactive navigation service like Google and Nokia so that people can get to where they want.

The tablet is also a personal device, but it is less portable. It is also a device that is much more inclined to be used in a comfortable position. It is a device which is optimized for the viewing of all content, national and local; print, sound, pictures and video. The fact that it is more inclined to be used in a comfortable position bodes well for the viewing of Yahoo’s traditional content vs. the PC in which content is seldom viewed in a comfortable position. Location is inclined to be less important than a smart phone because people will not be accessing the device at all time and locations. But the personal aspect is important because people want to view information which is relevant to them. The local services offered on smart phone will also apply to a tablet.

What is USA Today now? It is a national newspaper who has seen its popularity decline as a print newspaper as people have gone to equal or better, free information sources on the Internet. It is a company that has tried to make the transition to the PC and the cell phone but is still best known for its print version. Content companies need to make the adjustments in the focus of their content and the way the content is delivered when new technologies arrive in order to maintain their position as the top content provider.

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