Yahoo Food, Yahoo Tech and Yahoo News Digest were among the new products Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer introduced during a keynote address delivered before a packed theater at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Jan. 7 in Las Vegas.
Mayer also shared news of changes to Yahoo’s advertising strategy and reiterated themes she’s been sharing since shortly after leaving Google in July 2012 to turn around Yahoo.
“Yahoo is about making the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining,” said Mayer. She added that people are also spending much more time on their mobile devices.
“We’re sending emails, sharing photos, checking the weather,” she said, putting up a chart that showed how the things people do most on their phones are all the things Yahoo is focused on. “It’s who we are,” she said of Yahoo. “It’s who we’ve always been.”
Mayer’s key objectives as CEO include increasing revenue for search and mobile ads—Yahoo’s key businesses—and shifting the company’s brand image. Over the last year and half, Yahoo has purchased an eyebrow-raising number of companies—at least 17 during Mayer’s first year alone—and in recent months it made headlines for hiring Katie Couric and David Pogue. Yahoo’s plans for many of these acquisitions, and for accomplishing its goals, were made clear during the keynote.
Mayer’s first piece of news was that Yahoo has purchased Aviate, a company that’s created a context-aware home screen for Android devices.
“The future of search is contextual knowledge—leveraging your own data to help you,” said Mayer.
Aviate’s goal is to learn what people do on their phones and then try to cut out the repetitive steps. If every morning you turn on your phone and swipe to your stocks app and launch it, what if your phone could launch that app the moment you reach for it? Or present you with music apps when you get in the car, understanding that that’s what you’re about to reach for? Mayer called Yahoo and Aviate a “perfect fit.”
She also introduced three new content creations. Yahoo Tech (yahoo.com/tech), headed by Pogue, will discuss and review technology in terms everyone can understand (“We have a language we’re going to speak and it’s called English,” said Pogue, “it’s called human.”) as well as do things like review devices featured on Kickstarter.
Yahoo Food (yahoo.com/food) is an amalgam of food-related articles from around the Web, and Yahoo News Digest, a free app, is a modern take on a very old news idea: morning and evening editions of the day’s news.
Yahoo “curates” the most interesting news of the moment and then presents the story, but in chunks lifted from around the Web. For example, a story about Tesla bringing electric cars to Wyoming included a lead image, a two-paragraph summary of the news, a quote from a Tesla spokesperson, a map of the location in Wyoming, additional photos and links to the three stories the summary was drawn from.
A feature surely meant to increase clickthroughs (but that may rub some users as patronizing) shows how many of the nine presented stories one has read so far.
Yahoo Tech, Food and News Digest Among Reveals in Mayer Keynote
Mayer also announced that Yahoo Smart TV is introducing “Smart Guide,” a service that personalizes the viewing recommendations that users receive and that can pull up complementary content, like a user’s fantasy football stats while a football game is playing.
Speaking to the advertisers in the house (and Yahoo’s stockholders), Mayer also made two major ad-related announcements. The first was that the company has introduced a unified suite of digital advertising products for premium and audience-focused display, and native and search advertising. Mayer, with help from Senior Vice President of Advertising Technology Scott Burke, explained that Yahoo is making advertising simpler for advertisers and promising them greater results—thanks to the fact that Yahoo knows so much about its users (and apparently is willing to talk).
“Because Yahoo is at the center of people’s daily habits across search, communications, media, and video, we can offer uniquely powerful insights on consumer behavior,” Yahoo said in a post on its Tumblr blog.
Finally, Mayer revealed that Yahoo is now offering to create advertising for sponsored posts on Tumblr—the blog site Yahoo purchased in May 2013 for $1.1 billion.
“The average Tumblr post is reblogged 14 times. That’s a huge part of the distribution power of Tumblr,” said the site’s CEO, David Karp, who joined Mayer on stage. “The average sponsored post is reblogged more than 10,000 times.”
Karp added that when big brands apply themselves creatively on Tumblr, they “can find a big, big audience.”
The juxtaposition of the information presented during the keynote—the luring in of users and then the explanation of how to profit from them—made for a bit of an awkward conclusion, and Mayer didn’t linger. She told the audience that she hoped the hour had been inspiring and, adding that Yahoo takes the entertainment part of its mission seriously, introduced surprise musical guest John Legend to close things down.
Legend, at a piano, sang a slow rendition of “Here Comes the Sun.” The repeated assurance of “it’s all right” felt a bit warranted.