The Yahoo! CES keynote went down today, where Marissa Mayer and some of her best recently acquired friends took the stage to tell us about what to expect from Yahoo! in 2014. Yahoo! has a few new ways to deliver news and media to your eyeballs, and they just so happen to do an excellent job of delivering you ads, too.
The key way Yahoo! is doing that is through their new digital magazines. The first two that you’ll see are Yahoo! Food and Yahoo! Tech. Yahoo! Food brings you recipes, tips, tricks, and video from leading food personalities (food personalities? I’d love it if someone has a better way of phrasing that). It’s going to be carefully curated by those personalities, and all of the information will be presented in small, manageable chunks – an oft-repeated theme at the keynote today.
But, it’s Yahoo! Tech that gives us a more comprehensive idea of what Yahoo! is trying to do this year. Yahoo! Tech was introduced by David Pogue, the former tech writer for the New York Times. He’s now a Yahoo! man, and he’ll be putting out daily articles onto Yahoo! Tech, which is very much meant to be a daily magazine, rather than an ongoing blog. But what kind of audience will they be trying to reach? All those simple folk who don’t live in California or New York, according to a sort of ridiculous geographical distinction that Pogue drew during the presentation (with visual aids!). All the big words most tech blogs use must go right over the heads of everyone who doesn’t live in those two technological meccas, so Pogue and his friends will be doing straight-talk, no-nonsense tech reporting accessible to everyone, including daily and weekly features. There will even be Kickstarter reviews, as Pogue pointed out a grievous lack of Kickstarter reviews on other tech blogs today (I wonder why).
The articles on Yahoo! Tech won’t be found in headline links, but in tiles, sort of like a huge Windows 8 interface. The difference here is that when you click on a tile, the article expands without actually taking you off the home page. That way, you can just stay on the home page and keep scrolling down to more tiles and more articles, without having to navigate on your browser. Sounds familiar? It’s kinda how Tumblr works. And Yahoo! owns Tumblr! Yahoo! Tech, and all Yahoo! digital magazines to come, will indeed use Tumblr as a content platform.
And, that’s where the ads come in. Pogue was excited to mention the lack of banner ads on Yahoo! Tech. Instead, the ads will be more well-hidden – they’ll be tiles that look like regular article tiles, but marked as sponsored. In fact, a big part of the presentation was about how Yahoo! finally figured out how to make money off Tumblr. The sponsored ads are joined by entire corporate Tumblrs for sale – companies can buy advertising Tumblrs, and use them to create more engaging campaigns that can be shared on Tumblr’s network. Yahoo! also announced a whole slew of new advertising services for corporate partners aimed at making it easier to create and deliver better targeted advertising.
The other big media announcement was an app – Yahoo! Daily Digest. And really, doesn’t it just feel right that Yahoo! is the company to push out the digital version of Reader’s Digest? The Daily Digest will focus on nine leading stories, and distill them into summaries delivered twice daily, in the morning and evening. It’s being developed by the Summly team, a news summarization app that was acquired by Yahoo! last year. The former head of Summly, Nick D’Aloisio, introduced the new app, which is basically Summly reborn. A team rifles through a bunch of news stories about the same topic, cuts out text, images, video, and other media from all those sources (D’Aloisio calls each piece an ‘atom’), and weaves it all together into one short, condensed summary of the story. All of the source material in full is linked to at the bottom, but the main point is brevity and ease – providing you with short accounts of the day’s top news, without you needing to spend any time finding it yourself. There are even short bits of Wikipedia information for related topics you might not be familiar with.
Yahoo! Screen, Yahoo!’s video streaming service, is also getting expanded. The platform already features a lot of original content, plus video from Viacom properties (like Comedy Central), Good Morning America, and NBC Sports, among others. Yahoo! is building off that by developing Yahoo! Smart TV, a smart TV platform that brings Yahoo! Screen to several smart TV interfaces, along with a recommendation engine based on Yahoo!’s data-crunching abilities. And, yeah, there will be contextual, personalized ads thrown in, too.
The Yahoo! acquisition parade is still going. Mayer announced that Yahoo! purchased Aviate, a smart home screen for smartphones. Aviate pulls data from apps that you have downloaded and puts it in front of you in the correct contexts – offering to turn on music or search for destinations when you get into your car, for example. Over time, it learns your daily habits, and makes suggestions about which apps to use based on that information.
The takeaways here are that Yahoo! is doing its best to make it as easy as possible to follow the news, especially if you don’t have time to read longer articles. The image-friendly, Tumblr-backed digital magazines make getting that information a little more visual, and more mainstream, which I supposed is what Yahoo! has always been about – well, their idealization of what mainstream is, anyway. Time will tell if they got that part right, but one thing is for sure – Yahoo!’s doing a great job turning Tumblr into a nascent ad network.
And, as a little aside, Mayer quickly mentioned that all Yahoo! Mail users are protected by SSL protocols, including ads. As to the massive malware breach revealed a few days ago affecting Yahoo! users, especially where ads are concerned, no mention was made.
You can see the entire keynote here.