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Stephen Logan

Yahoo Increasingly Looking to Content to Fill Search Void

9th Jul 2010 News, Industry News 3 minutes to read

Upshot,  Premier League football, Ben Stiller, David Beckham?! Yahoo have been investing in some unusual things recently; so what happened to search?

Every week there’s a new Yahoo story. First they’ve got Premier League football rights, then they’ve created Facebook integration with Yahoo Pulse and next they have an exclusive show featuring Ben Stiller. This week however it was Upshot, their trend driven news service, getting the headlines.

Like a lot of Yahoo’s recent developments, Upshot seems to combine innovation, entertainment and a slither of madness. The idea of creating content on the basis that it is trending seems sensible, until of course you dig further.

Topics trend usually because something has already been published about it. When they trend, more journalists and bloggers become aware of it and share their own interpretation. Yahoo’s plan is to somehow editorialise this and promote it as a service within the site, long after the trend has peaked.

Let’s rewind though.

As a search engine Yahoo has been in rapid decline for some time (or, to be a little kinder, it hasn’t kept pace with the rest). However, all the while it has managed to maintain decent levels of traffic and retention of visitors. It has become a hub of sorts, providing visitors with entertainment, sports, financial and world news. The homepage is a mess of information and advertising. In fact search has almost become something of a bolt on for them; but still that hasn’t seemed to have a majorly adverse affect on them.

It is sometimes hard to tell if they are being canny or just blindly backing ‘guaranteed’ bets. They get David Beckham to provide an insightful column on the World Cup, the aforementioned Ben Stiller to do a star turn in a specially commissioned show and secure the highlights from the world’s biggest football league. Over in the US of course they have substantial (and popular) coverage of all major sports including NBA basketball and NFL football. But will all this investment actually pay dividends?

Upshot itself seems gimmicky. But I don’t think that will concern Yahoo all that much. If they want to become an entertainment hub that happens to host search, then they will need content – gimmicky or otherwise. A quick look at their current homepage suggests that investment in content is already well under way.

There are headlines from The Guardian, Telegraph and Mail, their own news and more features than you can shake a stick at. Some might see this as chaotic, others as a good way of encouraging audience diversity and ensuring visitor retention.  Whatever your feelings, clearly something is working for them (at the moment), so why not invest in bigger names, more original content and a better diversification of services?

Clearly Yahoo are going to have to find a way to monetise all of this. With their hopes almost entirely pinned on Bing’s success for search and PPC revenue, they have to give advertisers a reason to stump up the cash. Better content in greater quantity coupled with continued popularity amongst visitors is probably their best bet right now.

When commenting on our earlier report on Upshot, Jill Whalen seemed to get it on the nose:

Upshot is completely backwards. But they aren’t necessarily going after the tech savvy folks who sit at a computer all day digesting news and content at a disturbing rate. Yahoo are after people who want a quick fix. They want visitors to come in to check their email and be attracted by a stray headline, a bold image or one of their many features. Once you’re on that homepage, they don’t want you to go too far.

Google might be happy to take you from one blank search page to another; Yahoo certainly are not. The homepage is Yahoo for all intents and purposes, so clearly they are having to find ways to make it work better. Good luck to them too.

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