Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Searching for Relevance: Yahoo Aiming to Be the “Google of Content”

Earlier today in Germany, new Yahoo COO Henrique De Castro pretty much told a crowd at the DLD conference in Munich that the portal — which he is now responsible for helping run — needs a drastic overhaul.

“The desktop portal needs to transform itself,” said De Castro. “The personalization is not there, the tech is not there, and generalist portals are losing traffic.”

You’re kidding me! Actually, that insight is not exactly a startling revelation for anyone paying even the slightest amount of attention to the transformation of consumer habits on the Internet, which have become deeply social, increasingly mobile and decidedly a pull-and-not-push dynamic.

Over the years, Yahoo has tried to address most of these issues with a series of efforts that started a long time ago with My Yahoo, moved to a serious but flawed mobile app initiative and, most recently, included a successful partnership with Facebook to share content.

And, before De Castro and also new CEO Marissa Mayer got there earlier this year from Google, there was — and still is — another major initiative in the works called Project Zed to drastically overhaul the experience of Yahoo users.

That’s coming very soon, said one source, with an effort that aims to make Yahoo a “destination where people go to find content regardless of where it originates from; the better Yahoo gets at making it more relevant, the more it becomes part of people’s everyday routine and the more repeat visitors there are.”

According to another source, the aim has been articulated by top execs as Yahoo becoming the “Google of content.”

While one might argue that Google is already the Google of content, the plan is to make Yahoo more relevant by tailoring it to the individual and make the site a “trusted destination to get them to where they want to go and keep going back.”

Thus, the thinking goes, while Google is the place people come to search for links, Yahoo then becomes the place users come to find content. That means more partnership deals from third-party sources, with an additional social component layer and synced across a number of devices and platforms, especially video.

“Google will find links for content,” said another source. “Yahoo will put the content right there.”

If it all sounds a bit like a turbocharged Twitter, you’re right. It’s especially important since the old big-traffic deals that Yahoo could strike based on their portal power have become supplanted by marketers looking for mobile, social and other solutions.

In that effort, one Yahoo exec has recently described it as aiming for the “torso and tail of content and not head.”

And it also means much less original programming, which has been an important part of the media unit in recent years.

The Google-of-content effort is all part of Mayer’s recent statement to make Yahoo one of the “world’s daily habits.”

She’d best hurry in that endeavor, which also includes a refreshed email and homepage as well as a rethinking of its search deal with Microsoft (more on that soon).

That’s because, according to recent private ComScore data, Yahoo’s homepage, email and search products all saw significant year-over-year declines on a wide variety of key metrics in the last months of 2012, part of a longer-term trend.

Presumably, that’s why De Castro also said in the onstage interview that “the winners are the ones who will aggregate premium quality content at scale, and distribute it in a personalized way.”

In other words, content is king on the Web. The question is: Can Yahoo rule over that content?

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik