Open Wide and Say Yahhhhhhoo

by Aaron Goldman VP Marketing & Strategic Partnerships
Appeared in MediaPost’s Search Insider

Having just shed 1,000 employees in an attempt to trim costs and with a possible Microsoft acquisition casting a shadow over Sunnyvale, it would be hard to fault Yahoo for just trying to keep its various business units fully operational.

But Yahoo's not taking the lumps handed to it by the market lying down. Showing great resilience, Yahoo is pressing ahead with a series of innovative initiatives designed to improve user-experience across its properties and create compelling opportunities for the online media ecosystem.

While the scope of these various projects is diverse, they can all be tied together under Yahoo's continual push to "open up."


When Jerry Yang resumed his role at the helm, he laid out a plan to focus less on creating unique content (which Terry Semel and Lloyd Braun had championed) and more on using its technology and scale to connect consumers, publishers, and advertisers.

Last week, two more of these programs were rolled out — a revamp of the Buzz platform and expanded search results previews. has been built out to incorporate a Digg-like feature where users can vote on stories and the most popular ones get higher placement. The kicker here, though, is that, per the New York Times, Yahoo will place top Buzz stories on its homepage. With nearly 100 million monthly visitors, this blows Digg exposure out of the water. In fact, the Times reports that when Yahoo tested this service earlier this year, it linked to content from for just 3 hours and doubled that site's traffic for the entire month.

The Times also covered Yahoo's announcement that it was launching a plug-in for publishers to enhance their listings in Yahoo search. The Yahoo Search Blog has more details…

"Site owners will be able to provide all types of additional information about their site directly to Yahoo! Search. So instead of a simple title, abstract and URL, for the first time users will see rich results that incorporate the massive amount of data buried in websites — ratings and reviews, images, deep links, and all kinds of other useful data — directly on the Yahoo! Search results page."

This next quote from that same blog post says it all — "We believe that combining a free, open platform with structured, semantic content from across the Web is a clear win for all parties involved — site owners, Yahoo! and most importantly, our users."

Open Sesame

Another announcement from Yahoo last week underscored its commitment to openness. On the Yahoo Search Blog, the company said it has implemented what it believes is the "world's largest commercial application of Apache Hadoop." Now I can't pretend to know the implications of this — one Yahoo says it cuts 33% of the time off processing queries and returning results — but I do know that Apache is an open-source platform so we can lump this into the Open-Yahoo movement.

As if all this wasn't enough for one week, Jerry Yang and Sue Decker revealed further plans to embrace openness at the IAB annual conference. Ad Age quotes Jerry Yang as saying, "Imagine that soon we'll be opening up Yahoo to third-party developers. The idea is for third parties to be able to use our tools as easily as we use them ourselves."

Hmm… Facebook apps like Oregon Trail and Where I've Been on Yahoo? I Like.

Open Table

The other big news coming out of the IAB conference was the introduction of "Apex," Yahoo's new advertiser-publisher exchange. On Yahoo Anecdotal, Decker outlined the benefits of Apex to each of the core constituents in the online media world:

  • "Publishers will be able to better serve their advertisers' needs by making it easy for publishers to sell, package, and distribute other publishers' inventory alongside their own, giving advertisers extended reach to audiences across the Web through a centralized platform.
  • Advertisers will be able to spend more time on driving revenue and developing compelling creative for their audiences, rather than dealing with the complexities of ad generation, assembly, trafficking, and serving ads.
  • Advertising agencies will be able to streamline the buying process for multiple accounts across multiple publishers and allow for creative testing and campaign optimization, even as the campaign evolves.
  • And last but not least Advertising Networks will benefit from having a platform that connects publishers to the best advertisers for their site and audience, and advertisers to the best publishers with the most relevant audiences, thereby increasing both their reach in the process."

Sounds like Right Media on steroids to me. And knowing how well Right Media performs for each of the core groups listed above, juicing up that platform with Yahoo's infrastructure and scale can only be a good thing.

Closing Time

With Microsoft closing in like a buzzard circling wounded prey, Yahoo's dedication to rolling out more open initiatives is impressive. If Microhoo does come together, it will be interesting to see if the combined entity will press forward with an open strategy or retreat back to a closed environment more typical of the software company that famously monopolized the early days of the Web.

Similarly, if the News Corp. deal goes through, Yahoo will be right back in the content development business. What would that mean for its open door policy? Would it still make sense to promote user-voted stories on the Yahoo homepage above content from IGN and

Only time will tell how it all plays out, but one thing's for certain — as long as Yahoo remains independent, its future is wide open.


Copyright © 2008 Resolution Media, Inc. All rights reserved.