Yahoo Acquires Aviate, Unveils New Mobile, Ad Products

Yahoo on Tuesday announced its acquisition of Aviate, a startup that provides an “intelligent homescreen” for Android phones that surfaces relevant information based on a user’s activity. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer disclosed the deal in a keynote at CES, along with other digital content and advertising initiatives.

In an accompanying blog post today by Adam Cahan, SVP mobile and emerging products at Yahoo, suggested the Aviate technology would help Yahoo deliver Android users a more personalized experience on their phones.

“By using signal to understand your context -- WiFi, GPS, Accelerometer, Time, etc.-- Aviate automatically surfaces information at the moment it’s useful,” he wrote. “So whether you're just waking up, driving, at work, or maybe out for the night, Aviate learns your habits and helps anticipate the information and apps you need -- making your phone smarter.”

Sounds like Yahoo's answer to Google Now -- the search giant’s virtual assistant app -- and may strike consumers as creepy or really cool depending on their tolerance for having their habits constantly monitored for the sake of increased efficiency. Facebook’s attempt at introducing a launcher app last year for Android phones -- Facebook Home -- meanwhile, proved a big flop.

Yahoo has wasted little time in making its first acquisition in 2014, continuing a buying spree that racked up 28 company purchases last year, mostly aimed at bolstering its mobile capabilities. Like many of last year's transactions, the Aviate deal also falls under the heading of "acqui-hire," with Yahoo snagging engineering talent along with technology.

Started in 2011 by a pair of ex-Googlers, Aviate launched in beta in October. Yahoo on Tuesday said the product is still in beta, but the company hopes to make it “a central part of our Android-based experience in 2014" (and beyond), according to Cahan. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

On the mobile front, Yahoo also unveiled Yahoo News Digest, a new iPhone app built on the model of the Summly app it acquired last year that provides a stream of news summaries. The new app will deliver digests of the top news stories twice a day.

“We’ve taken summarization to the next level with News Digest, by algorithmically and editorially selecting the important articles and using multi-document summarization to identify the key ‘bits and pieces of information',” stated a blog post about the launch. Summaries can draw on sources including articles, maps, infographics, videos and photos.

In addition, Yahoo on Tuesday rolled out new sections on its site devoted to food and consumer tech. Yahoo Tech has gotten the most attention since the company announced hiring former New York Times tech columnist David Pogue to head up the vertical. Yahoo Food is led by Managing Editor Sarah McColl, previously of Bon Appetit, and features former editors and writers for Huffington Post Food, Gourmet and Martha Stewart Living.

Both sites have the look and feel of glossy digital magazines, with plenty of Flickr photos, video and a mobile-friendly design meant to work seamlessly across tablet and smartphone screens. All that additional content, of course, has to be supported by advertising.

In that vein, Yahoo announced a suite of new ad offerings spanning Web, mobile and video platforms. These include sponsored posts on Tumblr powered by Yahoo Advertising, allowing marketers to target in-stream ads by gender and location and only pay on a cost-per-action (e.g. reblogs, likes, follows) basis.

Yahoo also introduced three other new display ad products. These include Yahoo Audience Ads, which the company bills as an upgrade to its Genome audience-buying platform launched last year. It promises “optimized, data-driven ad buying with enhanced analytics” that combines Yahoo, advertiser and third-party data.

An updated Yahoo Ad Manager aims to provide a more simplified process for getting ads up on Yahoo.com in “a matter of minutes” through a more user-friendly interface with analytics built in. An Ad Manager Plus tool is intended to help larger advertisers plan and execute complex display campaigns directly for greater control over performance.

Last, the new Yahoo Ad Exchange, debuting in the first quarter, is being touted by the company as an upgrade to its outdated Right Media Exchange, “with a higher-quality marketplace and an enhanced platform featuring payment clearing, advanced inventory and demand controls, and flexible private marketplaces.”

With Yahoo's revenue growth remaining flat under Mayer and its display ad business falling 7% and 11% in the last two quarters, it's hardly surprising that the company is bringing out a package of new or updated ad tools. Whether they amount to more than short-lived marketing moves should become clearer later this year. 

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1 comment about "Yahoo Acquires Aviate, Unveils New Mobile, Ad Products".
  1. Anni Paul from BoscoSystems , January 8, 2014 at 8:57 p.m.
    Tumblr is ripe for native advertising. Brilliant move by Yahoo. Twitter, FB, and Airpush are already getting the industry pumped about the future of native ads in mobile. What Yahoo's doing is only going to bring more attention to this obvious growth market. Very exciting!