Media Buyers Welcome More Open Yahoo
Last week, Yahoo began posting links to other news and content sites on the Featured section of its home page for the first time as part of an effort to open up the portal and make it the entry point for most Internet users.
Most of the featured links still go to other Yahoo properties, such as Yahoo's news and travel sections. But after months of testing, the site has started linking to sources ranging from independent blogs to The Wall Street Journal to popular sites like Vanityfair.com and Salon.com.
The move reflects Yahoo's broader strategy to turn the site into a more open platform to help compete with Google and newer social networking rivals such as Facebook and MySpace. In addition to adding external links, the movement includes inviting third-party developers to create new content and social applications for Yahoo.
Executives at digital agencies generally applauded Yahoo's new open-door policy.
"The walled-garden approach doesn't work," says Scott Symonds, executive media director at AKQA. "So creating easier exit and entry points and getting people to come back to Yahoo and not hold them there is a smart strategy."
David Cohen, executive vice president, U.S. director of digital communications at Universal McCann, agrees.
"Yahoo's willingness to open its home page to outside links is a clear acknowledgement of the trends we're seeing today," he says. "The days of the uber-destination that attempts to be all things to all people are quickly fading."
In particular, they point to the rise of myriad Web 2.0 alternatives including blogs, social networking sites, and other forms of user-generated content.
"I think Yahoo is a great publisher and a great place to put quality brands, but I want to make sure it's keeping up with the marketplace," says Symonds, whose firm's clients include Dell, Coca-Cola and Visa.
Symonds believes Yahoo should be pushing even harder to adapt to the rapidly changing Web media landscape by offering more third-party applications on MyYahoo, among other steps.
Ironically, Yahoo's new openness is a return to its roots, as the Web directory Jerry Yang and David Filo started in 1994 as graduate students at Stanford Business School. Under former CEO Terry Semel, Yahoo gradually became more of a destination as it focused on building up its own properties.
Cohen suggested that the third-party links could help Yahoo as a defensive measure, if nothing else.
"Yahoo's home page already gets such significant daily traffic, we don't expect a significant shift in volume, but it may help stem the rising popularity of second-tier content sites," he says.
Mediasmith CEO David Smith likewise views the outside links as a small change, "but one that may herald bigger things down the road."