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Innovation at Yahoo

April 3, 2012

Last month I attending the technology for marketing show, TFM&A in London and one of the keynote speeches was by Jon Myer of Yahoo. He talked about how they innovate at Yahoo and what they see as the challenges they face. He used a very interesting graph from Gartner research that shows new technologies and when they can be expected to be widely accepted.


"Hype cycle for emerging technologies 2010" shows what and when people expect things to happen. Although this was published in 2010 it still holds true today although obviously the timeline for everything has moved on. If you look at Cloud Computing it is listed as 2-5 yrs. Two years on and Cloud Computing is pretty well adopted and has probably moved on to the "Slope of Enlightenment". The same can be said for 3D Flat Panel TV's and E-Book readers.

Yahoo estimate they have about 720 million daily users. Thats about 10% of the entire population every day that use Yahoo which is staggering. In a strange coincidence, in January Yahoo was valued at $720 million. When users visit the Yahoo homepage they don't want them to leave and Yahoo try to engage their users with what they call realtime optimisation. The content of the homepage is tailored specifically for you based on what Yahoo knows about you. Over time they can learn alot about you based on which articles you read and what details are in your profile. They can then match this with other people with the same interests and show you what is relevant. Yahoo call this CORE and using the Visualize website you can see what stories are receiving what traffic. The Visualize website says it personalises 2.2 billion pieces of content for users every day they serve approximately 200 million different version of the homepage every day. This works out at over 2000 different versions of the homepage every second.


Search is important to Yahoo and they have recently been focusing alot of their efforts on mobile search. They estimate that mobile search will take over PC search in the next 5 yrs. So mobiles will become the main search platform and Yahoo want to be ready. Yahoo are in a Search Alliance with Microsoft which is due to start in Q2 2012 and the agreement last 10 yrs. This means the 2 search engines will combine to become 1 platform which is good for everyone.

Yahoo believe that their are four screens that a user could display a website or email on in a day. You have your mobile while on the move, your laptop or desktop when your at work, your tablet when your at home and more increasingly the connected television. As more and more browsing takes place on the tablet, Yahoo took the bold step of developing the latest version of Yahoo Mail for the tablet specifically. It then released it on the tablet and worked on porting the release to the desktop.

So should we all start designing our emails for mobiles and tablets ? I think this depends on your audience and what you are selling but it is definitely food for thought. If a high percentage of your opens and clicks are on an iPhone then its worth considering but think about what your call to action is. If your selling concert tickets then it might be viable to design for mobiles since people are more likely to buy a ticket while on their mobile.  Its fairly low value and an instinctive purchase. If your selling luxury holidays then its not something you are going to purchase while on the move. However, the content still needs to be informative and well formatted on the mobile to make the user read the content and possibly save the email to view later on their laptop or tablet.

Posted by Simon Hill
General, Technology

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