We’re at the Yahoo Product Runway and the company just announced/presented a host of products today. Most are powered by HTML5, and here’s the list: Livestand, IntoNow, Weather, Mail for iPad, Cocktails, CORE and Social Features.
Livestand: this news reader is available in the Apple App store, right now and it is strongly personalized. There are about 100 publishers currently featured but Yahoo expects the number of publishers to grow quickly over the next few months, and as you can expect, nearly all the best Yahoo content is already available on Livestand. Yahoo says that its platform is highly engaging as well.
Livestand can run on a device that is shared among several users who can login (Y! or Facebook) and have their own settings. Yahoo also describes Livestand as a “Personalized, Living, Magazine”, which is a bold statement – but you get the vision. When seeing it in action, it definitely looks more like an app than an RSS reader. The design is clean, the look and feel is beautiful and the overall experience is fast, which is Livestand’s main advantage when compared to regular websites and magazines which are often presented as variants .PDF files.
Videos can be embedded as well, but at the moment, it’s not clear if they are stored locally, or remotely. At any time, the user can go to the page where the original article has been published (assuming that it came from a website).
Livestand also features “living ads”, which are animated ads that can link to a more interactive version of the app. As you can guess the idea is that advertisers will spend much more on those ads. It is a bit like what Apple was aiming for, although it didn’t work that well for them.
Finally, if you login on someone else’s iPad you will find the exact same news and settings that you have on your own.
IntoNow: Yahoo’s analysis shows that people are watching TV 22mn more a month than last year, so TV is huge and is getting bigger. TV is also important because it is still the largest advertising medium out there. What Yahoo noticed is that people now watch TV while using mobile devices, so in their own words, “Devices change everything”. Yahoo discovered that tablets are taking over the world when it comes to consumption, especially in the evening. During that time of the day, it’s bigger than mobile and bigger than PC.
IntoNow can identify a TV clip in real-time using the TV sound, and with the help of Yahoo’s CORE, IntoNow is able to connect the live TV show with stories on Yahoo that are relevant. IntoNow displays the TV show information on one half of the screen, and shows relevant web content on the remainder. Other services have been trying to do so, but doing it using the TV live audio feed makes IntoNow head and shoulders above any other user-input based apps.
IntoNow also has a social aspect: It is possible to connect to your Twitter so that you can see what your friends are saying about a TV show that you are watching now. If you think of it, these are people that you may not be following all the time, but you can all (virtually) bond for the duration of an event/show.
IntoNow’s technology has a huge database (250+ years worth of shows) of audio signatures, so even classic shows can be identified in about 12 seconds on a tablet.
C.O.R.E: Content Optimization Relevance Engine. Core is currently used to personalize Yahoo’s homepage today. CORE uses recommendations from editors, social and user signals. CORE powers 1 billion clicks per months on the homepage. Click through rate has increased 40% over the last year, thanks to CORE, so Yahoo is proud of what it has done with this technology. 400K Stories find the right audience every day, says Yahoo. CORE is at the heart of all the smartness and “content match” of Yahoo.
Social Features: “You can’t be an internet business and not incorporate social in a meaningful way” says Yahoo, whose goal is to “own the content” discovery. This is a bold objective, but in this game, one can hardly have small ambitions. Yahoo is realistically assessing that it cannot get everyone to go to its home page, so even a titan like Yahoo has to use social networks like Facebook to distribute its content. As of now, they have already doubled the traffic that they get from Facebook.
On the business side, Yahoo is adding advertising within their social features by advertising within user newsfeed – something that Facebook has considered as “taboo” so far. It will be interesting to see how that works and if users like it. Yahoo also makes it easy to start a conversation with other Yahoo users by creating lists and emails. Yahoo users who are logged-in will also be notified directly by the Yahoo site, just like you get notifications on Facebook.
All in all, Yahoo’s social features are just nascent, but they should get tangible results fairly quickly because their content (news) is what people want to share the most.
Yahoo Design: “we’ve always served a real purpose, with a sense of fun” says Yahoo. You may not think of Yahoo as an edgy design company, but Yahoo is taking design very seriously as it realizes that design does create emotion, and does create loyalty among users. This design push is most obvious in Yahoo Weather, and Yahoo Mail for iPad.
Overall, Yahoo likes the “power of images”, and you will see a lot of image tiles and clean design. It’s actually surprising because Yahoo has this reputation of being a text-based company because their homepage was a massive block of text for so many years. Expect this “design language” to spread to every Yahoo product.
Overall, this was a good line up from Yahoo, it’s actually one of the best launches that we’ve seen from them for a while. In my opinion, Yahoo is realistic about where it is at, and what it can do. It also realizes that it needs external help from Facebook and other huge “eyeball attractors”. Yahoo is embracing tablets, and mobile devices. This is a long-term goal, but it may just pay off big time down the road.
If you compare Yahoo with other digital content companies like AOL, Hulu and others, it is clear that Yahoo has the muscles to do some real damage. After all, it commands $6B of advertising dollars annually and has the biggest news and email portals in the world.
Yet, I feel that some part of Yahoo is still looking inwards. With the level of personalization that Yahoo has, it should have more publishing partners to address a wider, possibly more targeted audience.
Yahoo is also not very good at promoting its own products. Frankly, have you discussed with your friends about Yahoo! Screen or Yahoo Webplayer? Probably not, and it’s not because the products aren’t good, but because they haven’t generated any buzz.
In the end, Yahoo has built a solid technical foundation and platform that they can build upon. Over the longer term, this is probably their greatest asset when compared to other content-oriented competitors. Yahoo’s web and engineering background should give it a significant edge – if the company knows how to harness and distribute it across its content and partners.
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