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January 8, 2014

Mayer Lays Out Yahoo’s Strategy for the Future at CES

New Products Place Emphasis on Entertainment, Quality Content and News

Photo by Giorgio Montersino via Compfight cc — Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer at a public event.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer took to the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas Tuesday to talk about the future — one in which Yahoo is “simplifying” its business by “moving from complexity to clarity.”

Joined on stage by new employees, well-known news anchor Katie Couric and technology columnist David Pogue, Tumblr’s David Karp, SNL’s Weekend Update team and a handful of Yahoo executives, Mayer talked about her strategy to bring the search engine company’s media business back to life. Mayer even arranged a three-song set by musician John Legend to show that Yahoo takes “the entertainment part of our mission pretty seriously.”

Mayer kicked off her hour-long talk with the announcement that Yahoo is taking its spending spree into 2014 with the acquisition of Smartphone-homescreen launcher Aviate.

One of Mayer’s goals since taking the reins at Yahoo in the summer of 2012 was to improve its mobile offerings, which were pretty much nil. She told the CES crowd Yahoo has now surpassed 400 million monthly users on mobile.

“We’re in the midst of a massive and continuing platform shift to mobile and something that’s central to our forward progress at Yahoo,” said Mayer, adding that Yahoo has “overhauled our media properties to bring users personality and content from across the Web.”

As part of that goal, Mayer announced the launch of Yahoo Food and Yahoo Tech, the latter of which will be run by former New York Times columnist Pogue.

Pogue used his time on stage to poke fun at some popular technology websites such as the Verge and Engadget which, he said, often write over the heads of the average consumer. His publication, he said, will be written for the tech-curious rather than for tech-geeks.

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Yahoo image

Yahoo image

Yahoo image
















Both Yahoo Food and Yahoo Tech have been created with phones and tablets in mind, although they work well on a traditional computer screen as well, said senior vice-president of Homepages and Verticals Mike Kerns. When a user clicks on a tile, it expands in place, allowing the user to read the article without having to worry about browser tabs, multiple windows, or the back button. After the user is finished with the article, he or she can simply collapse it again, or click another tile to read something else.

“Like your favorite glossy magazine for the digital world, Yahoo Food and Yahoo Tech marry the elegant design and bold imagery of traditional magazines with immersive bite-sized stories, engaging videos, and stunning photos curated from Flickr and across the Web,” said Kerns.

For news buffs, Mayer launched the Yahoo News Digest, a service that delivers the most important news twice a day to users’ Smartphones or tablets. So far, it is only available for the iPhone and iPod touch.

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Yahoo image

This product comes courtesy of Mayer’s acquisition of Summly, the app created by British-born Australian teenager Nick D’Aloisio.

D’Aloisio, who is now a product manager at Yahoo, attended CES along with Mayer to talk about the project.

“We wanted Yahoo News Digest to revisit a content format that when read, led you to a sense of completion and conclusiveness, much like reading the newspaper did,” he said.

“With Summly, we learned that people don’t necessarily have the time to read a lengthy article, especially when they have limited screen real-estate while they’re on the go. By giving powerful algorithmic summaries, we found that people were willing to consume more content when it was boiled down to the most important bits.”

Couric also took to the stage with Mayer, explaining why she has signed on with Yahoo as the company’s global anchor.
“Very few of us head to the front steps to get our newspaper, but instead we reach for our mobile phones to get our headlines,” Couric said.  “I think accuracy has been the casualty of immediacy. Linking has replaced reporting.”
Couric added that Mayer is putting Yahoo’s focus on quality content and “real journalism.”

Yahoo is also dabbling in the TV market with its newly introduced Smart TV, described by Smart TV vice-president Ron Jacoby as the “next evolution of Yahoo’s Connected TV platform, which is used in millions of households today.”

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Yahoo image

The Yahoo Smart Guide recommends content based on the user’s viewing habits and includes a combination of shows that are just starting and “interesting in-progress” content like major league sports as well as Video On Demand and Web content.

Yahoo Smart Info, meanwhile, automatically suggests content related to the show the user is presently watching — for instance, live updates on the user’s fantasy team during the game.

“We’re working with entertainment partners like FOX to give you new ways to get inside your favorite TV shows with relevant downloads and bonus content,” Jacoby said. “Commercials are also made smarter, so it’s easy to track your FedEx package when you see the TV ad, or take advantage of a special offer.”

To go along with all of the new products, Mayer has also launched a new approach to digital advertising — one that will place ads beside quality content. Read more on that here.

SNL’s Cecily Strong and Keenan Thompson gave a live Weekend Update on stage before Legend brought Yahoo’s session to a close with a Beatles cover.


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.