6 things I learnt from Yahoo in Manchester

Following on from my 9 things I learnt @ Google @ Manchester post last week I have decided to put a similar post together for the meeting I just had with Yahoo.

Yahoo came into our Manchester HQ yesterday with a lovely (genuinely) team fresh from the big smoke to talk about Yahoo current initiatives and future direction. Here is what I learnt…

1/ We are not just a portal or a search engine. We are a media company!

2/ Science. Art. Scale.

There is Science behind their homepage and it was interesting to note how they serve different news items (and even different viewpoints on news items) depending on your past behaviour.

Yahoo is trying to get down with the kids and keep up to date with Social by integrating social groups of friends into their news functionality. Essentially you can see what friends are reading and discuss directly with those groups rather than with the great unwashed. It’s a nice idea however I’m not convinced people will create sub groups just on Yahoo.

Yahoo deemed Art to be their creative banner display opportunities however whilst good I see them keeping up with the Jones’s rather than truly innovating.

Yahoo genuinely do have Scale and are the third most visited UK site according to Google with some major properties such as OMG! & Eurosport News.

3/ Yahoo are treating mobile and tablet seriously. Examples include:

  • Yahoo is now designing for mobile and tablet first and then adapting for desktop (the situation was the reverse 1 year ago).
  • Yahoo is looking at different ad technologies/ applications on mobile and tablets e.g. the use of html5 thumb friendly expandables.
  • The evolving phenomenon of dual screening was ably demonstrated and supported by Yahoo’s development of into_now. As shown in the video above into_now is like shazam but for TV. If you are interested in Mad Men for example and use the into_now application to scan a short section of audio (5 seconds ish) then the app launches more information on the programme and connects you to twitter + Facebook to discuss the programme with others. I must say this is the presentation that impressed me the most and shows what well thought out dual screening can do for online/offline integration (unfortunately only currently available to our US cousins).

4/ Retargeting and Behavioural targeting is getting better. When I started out using the networks a few years ago behavioural targeting was BAD. It often took a month for the system to learn patterns of behaviour and pick the best target sites (which were often poorly matched) however now the learning process only takes 7-10 days with the targeting having greatly improved with the use of browser, ISP, Referrer, search keyword and site retargeting behaviour analysis.

5/ ‘Answers not links’… is Yahoo’s mantra (sounds slightly Wolfram Alpha or Ask Jeeves circa 2005 esque to me however I digress). Yahoo are trying to provide answers in the SERPS (similar to my thoughts on Google a few months ago) and with full Search Alliance integration coming in Q2 of 2012 for the UK it looks like Yahoo will use Bing’s Search algorithm and their own sprinkling of UI to get the most from Search. Essentially watch out for a lot of Universal search jiggery pokery that inflates the ranking for Yahoo properties (although a 4% market share and with Google continuing to innovate means the improvements are unlikely to shift their market share or usability rating needles significantly).

6/ And after all that the future might not be in their own hands.

We must not forget that at the time of writing this article Yahoo were in $25bn buy out talks. Whilst the 10 year Search agreement signed with Bing will ‘have’ to be honoured any buyout could spell major changes at Yahoo hence the future of Yahoo is far from certain.