Yahoo CEO puts mobile first

7 January 2014 by Steve Blum
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Mayer steps out at CES.

“Mobile takes the things that Yahoo has excelled at, like news and mail, and puts them in your pocket”, said Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, as she walked onto the keynote stage at CES this afternoon and launched a mobile makeover of the company. “Mobile is all about growth”.

Yahoo now has 400 million mobile users every month, she said. And that’s not even counting Tumblr. On average, smart phone owners are spending five times as much time using their devices now, than they did three years ago. Mayer intends to continue driving that growth with news and features optimised for mobile consumption. Which is more than just coming up with mobile friendly designs. It also means optimising the text and layout of news stories for mobile attention spans.

The problem they’re addressing, according to Mayer, is the “too long, didn’t read” – tl;dr – information overload that comes from being constantly connected to countless news sources. The just introduced Yahoo News Digest tailors two news updates a day to your preferences, using algorithms to combine information from multiple sources into a single story, with summary text and meaningful images. That’s the idea, anyway. There will be some level of human review of new content before it goes out, though.

Mayer kicked off digital magazine and video content services, also optimised for mobile consumers. Her choice of CES as a launch pad says a lot about the new reality of consumer electronics, where smart phones and tablets are taking an increasingly large share of annual retail spending. But it was also an attempt to bring Yahoo back into the top tier of Internet media companies by putting Mayer on an equal footing with giants of technology and media, past and present, who have graced the CES keynote stage.

With 800 million users, Yahoo has a big enough audience to make a comeback. If Mayer can deliver on today’s content promises.