What’s Yahoo? Mayer Says “Search, Communications, Digital Magazines & Video”

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It’s been a question that’s haunted three Yahoo CEOs when asked in recent years: “What’s Yahoo.” Today, during her CES keynote, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer came closest to a clear, simple answer: “Search, communications, digital magazines & video.” Unsaid was ads as a major area. And missing-in-action: social.

There were the four main areas that make up Yahoo; and, while having four big areas still may seem complex, it’s still a long way toward narrowing down the mish-mash of various Yahoo services that at times seem to have gone in various directions.

Below, some further and quick top-of-my-head thoughts on this, as I dash to finish up before being booted out of the keynote room (and please forgive the typos — I’ll fix any soon)!

Search obviously encompasses Yahoo’s origin story, being a search engine that helps you find stuff. But given that Yahoo will never recover its past glory in the face of such huge leads now by Google, as well as Bing, the focus seems to be on new products like the Yahoo News Digest announced today. Niche products. Things that are still search and discovery, but in areas where maybe Yahoo can win.

Communications seems largely Yahoo Mail, which took a recent hit after the major service problems that hit in recent weeks. But, it remains a Yahoo strength, and more development there — as well as messaging seems likely.

Digital magazines are marked by the launch of Yahoo Food and Yahoo Tech today, or really, the relaunch of those area that I’m pretty sure existed before. But now, rather than these verticals that Yahoo’s long had but which lacked a clear definition (they’re search, they’re content, they’re media), the magazine moniker and remake seems to take aim to pull in people with an easy-to-understand concept.

Video, highlighted the most with a live SNL “Weekend Tech Update” on stage to underscores Yahoo’s SNL partnership, still seems fairly undefined. Yahoo wants to have video content, help us watch video on all devices, video we want and that’s targeted to our interests — with ads to follow. But it still feels like it’s a scattershot collection of content and services.

Not said was a very important area: ads. That’s because this message today was more for consumers. Ads were, of course, mentioned — and perhaps most important, Yahoo the former display ad leader, seems to be moving more and more toward wanting to be the “native advertising” leader — native advertising being an nice way of saying ads that don’t look like ads but instead seem more like native content.

As for Tumblr and Flickr, they arguably could make up a fifth area: publishing. But Mayer positioned them more as layers that work with the other four areas, rather than a consumer focus on their own. Odd.

A sixth area was missing-in-action. Social. If Yahoo sees social offerings as important to its future, it trotted out nothing to show for that. To me, that’s a pretty good sign it hopes to leave the social wars to others and instead ride on the back of those services.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Top News | Yahoo

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About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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