Kara Swisher

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Product Management, Engineering and UI Design for Yahoo News Moving to Taiwan

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In a risky but interesting move that has some at the company nervous and others excited, Yahoo is in the process of moving key development responsibility for its juggernaut Yahoo News unit to Taiwan.

Under the new system, product management, engineering and user interface design for the powerful Yahoo (YHOO) property will become the responsibility of staffers there.

Editorial employees for Yahoo News–which is the No. 1 news site on the Web with 48.4 unique monthly visitors, according to comScore data (SCOR)–will remain in the U.S., largely located at its Santa Monica, Calif., office.

Sources had alerted BoomTown to the change at Yahoo’s flagship content offering this week and many I spoke to about it were deeply worried about further separating key functions in the creation of Yahoo News.

“We are losing more and more of our ability to make quick changes and react to new technologies, which has worked pretty well so far, since we are #1,” said one staffer. “First, we all worked together across a room, then hundreds of miles away and now it is thousands.”

Previously, as was first reported here in February, the distributed and regional method of developing content was shifted to a central global product development organization, with product management, engineering and UI design centered at Yahoo’s Sunnyvale, Calif., HQ under CTO Ari Balogh.

The argument for the shift posits that centralizing the product development of a Yahoo media offering drives efficiencies, saves money, eliminates redundancies and accelerates growth across the world.

Those who do not like the idea think it is wrong to separate the development of a product from the programming because the two are intricately dependent and need to be tweaked delicately.

In addition, they argue, it makes Yahoo media offerings, which have been largely successful, less unique and more dull.

Well, tough tomatoes, because Yahoo confirmed the transition to me when I inquired about it. It was announced internally several weeks ago.

In an interview I did yesterday afternoon with Jeff Kinder, SVP of media products and solutions, who is spearheading the change, he said it was key that Yahoo News streamline how it makes its products in order to be more innovative and responsive on a global basis.

Before the shift to a global system, he pointed out that Yahoo had 26 different news products worldwide, using nine content management systems.

“This is part of building a global media platform,” said Kinder, who leads development of Yahoo’s anchor media properties, as well as its listings and regional products around the world.

Kinder said the staff in Taiwan was selected to take on Yahoo News because it had been creating top-level news products and was passionate about the arena.

Nonetheless, similar functions for other major Yahoo content categories–Sports, Finance and Entertainment–will remain in the United States.

In addition, he noted, with employees in Taiwan taking over these functions at Yahoo News, it would “free up some of the talent” in Silicon Valley to work on other critical content projects.

Kinder dismissed worries about any logjams in the ability of U.S.-based Yahoo News staffers to make changes to offerings, either for consumers or advertising partners, noting there were weekly calls between the teams and plenty of ways to communicate online.

But those worried about the change said the reason for the move was more to cut costs in the content arena, which–like many parts of Yahoo–has undergone layoffs and expense reductions.

Countered Kinder: “We are all driving to the same goal….This is not about cost savings, but about accelerating change and leveraging a global team.”


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— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo