Marissa Mayer took to the stage at CES in Las Vegas to announce an even more media focused strategy with digital magazines and a new News Digest app, lead by British teenage entrepreneur Nick D'Aloisio.
The media-centric move continues Mayer’s aggressive overhaul of Yahoo in an effort to return it to its former glory as one of the home pages of the web.
“We decided to do what I love – harness the power of the web and deliver it in a concise experience, like that found in the beautiful, elegant magazine,” said Mayer on stage.
Yahoo’s new digital magazines kick off with Yahoo Tech, the new site lead by Yahoo’s recent signing of long-time technology commentator David Pogue, who joined the company from the New York Times. “At Yahoo Tech, we’re going to speak English, it’s call human – we’re taking care of the middle 85% of internet users, the normal people,” said Pogue.
Joining the new tech magazine-style publication is Yahoo Food, a glossy collection of recipes and other culinary musings described as “everything an at-home chef needs to feel inspired” by Mayer and lead by well-known writers from leading culinary publications.
Summly creator D'Aloisio unveiled what he’s been working on since Yahoo acquired his company in March 2013. Yahoo News Digest employs the Summly summarisation technology into a news app that takes stories from multiple sources and news organisations and blends them together in a morning and evening digest of around nine important stories of the day.
The free app includes “atoms” – interactive sections that add value to the story with context including images, Wikipedia entries, videos, and a list of tweets discussing the issue.
Mobile first, media-centric
“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.
All of Yahoo’s new products are designed to provide an excellent mobile-first experience, while maintaining quality on the desktop. But the media-centric products show that Yahoo is moving further and further towards being a media company, producing its own original content as well as curating others’.
This shift forms part of Mayer’s vision to turn around Yahoo, which started when she took the helm of Yahoo in July 2012, then 37, tasked with bringing the declining technology company back to health.
“We’re simplifying our business, moving from complexity to clarity,” said Mayer of the progress Yahoo has made since her leadership began.
Mayer left a 13-year career at Google, which saw her manage and contribute to many aspects of Google’s products and portfolio including being part of the three-strong team that invented Google AdWords.
Her most famous act at Google is known as the “Forty Shades of Blue” episode, where a fight over which shade of blue should be used for links on a page displayed her obsessiveness over detail.
After arguing with a programmer over very slightly different shades of blue which may or may not have generated more clicks, she ordered that 40 different shades of the primary colour would be shown to randomly shown to each 2.5% of visitors monitoring their performance, eventually ended up with the blue colour shown on Google’s mail and search pages.
That attention to detail was clearly visible in all the approach of Yahoo’s slick new products that oozed sophistication and employed the latest in web technology – not something that could be said of the Yahoo of two years ago.
Acquisition, acquisition, acquisition
Since taking the reigns of Yahoo, Mayer has shown gumption and an eye for acquiring companies with the $1.1bn purchase of blog platform Tumblr a highlight. On Tuesday the Yahoo chief announced that she had acquired yet another company, this time an app called Alleviate, which creates a personalised home screen on Android devices based on your habitual usage.
She has also piled investment back into one of Yahoo’s best assets in the form of Flickr, invested in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and pumped up Yahoo’s stock price by over 100% since taking over.
Her stance on home working, which is now banned at Yahoo due to a policy change, angered many employees in February, but her belief that working side-by-side in the office for better collaboration, speed and quality forced the issue through.
One of Mayer’s biggest achievements for Yahoo has been getting people talking positively about the company again, which was clear by the enormous crowd that turned up to the hour-long keynote address at CES.
An increase in the number of users and people wanting to work for Yahoo hasn’t hurt, either, even if it does appear the company is forging headlong into the foggy territory of a media-centric tech company like Aol.
Like Google, Yahoo is an online advertising company at its heart, and it also announced a big simplification of its ad platform to help ad buyers, along with integration with Tumblr sponsored posts.
• Technology giants, including Yahoo, call for "agressive" reforms of the NSA policies of the White HouseThis article was written by Samuel Gibbs in Las Vegas, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 7th January 2014 23.34 Europe/London
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