Yahoo Buys News Aggregator App Summly

Summly-phone-BContinuing its run of “acquihires” to enhance its mobile offerings, Yahoo on Monday announced buying newsreader app Summly for an undisclosed amount. The AllThingsD blog, however, reported a purchase price of $30 million.

Rumors that the Web portal was eyeing the startup first surfaced in December, after the app created by 17-year-old London developer Nick D’Aloisio had been available for only a month via iTunes. Summly uses an algorithm to generate bite-size news summaries drawn from thousands of sources that also link to full articles.

In a blog post today, Senior Vice President of Mobile and Emerging Products at Yahoo Adam Cahan said the app will be shut down, but will “come to life through Yahoo’s mobile experiences soon.” The most important aspect of the deal is that D’Aloisio and his Summly team will join Yahoo in the coming week, with the transaction expected to close in the second quarter.

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“Mobile devices are at the center of how we engage with the people, experiences and interests we love. Across Yahoo!, we’re focused on creating beautiful experiences that people are excited to use every day -- products that inspire and delight," wrote Cahan.

He pointed out that Summly had found a “simple and elegant” way to present news to an on-the-go mobile audience. For his part, D’Aloisio stated: “After spending some time on campus, I discovered that Yahoo has an inspirational goal to make people's daily routines entertaining and meaningful, and mobile will be a central part of that vision. For us, it's the perfect fit.”

D’Aloisio started what became Summly when he was just 15, attracting $1.5 million in backing from high-profile investors, including Ashton Kutcher, Lady Gaga and Yoko Ono in addition to Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Horizon Ventures. 

The acquisition comes on the heels of a similar deal by Yahoo to pick up mobile talent through its purchase of recommendation app Jybe last week, which brought back five ex-Yahoo employees, including Arnab Bhattacharjee, former VP of Yahoo Search Technology. Yahoo also snapped up mobile video-chat startup OnTheAir in December, well as the mobile team behind recommendations app Stamped, in October.

The string of deals reflect CEO Marissa Mayer’s focus on revitalizing Yahoo’s moribund mobile properties by bringing in new talent and bolstering investment in the segment. Under Mayer, the company has also released revamped versions of mobile offerings including its Flickr iPhone app and Yahoo Mail app.

The company has 200 million mobile monthly active users overall, but Mayer has said she wants to cut back its “scattered” portfolio of up to 75 mobile apps to just 12 to 15 key properties. Even before she joined Yahoo last July, Yahoo killed its Livestand newsreader app for the iPad after only six months. But the Summly acquisition could signal its intentions to again compete with the likes of Flipboard, Zite, Pulse and other mobile news aggregators.

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