Yahoo held its second now annual “Product Runway” event, mc’d by product chief Blake Irving. Irving was assisted by some younger executives from companies that Yahoo had acquired in the recent past.
There were four announcements, lead by the formal unveiling of Livestand, Yahoo’s long-promised tablet news reader application. It competes with Flipboard, CNN’s Zite, AOL Editions, Taptu, Pulse and others.
Here is a quick summary of the four announcements:
- Livestand: Described as a “personalized living magazine,” it’s a mix of Yahoo’s own content and third party content. There will be ad-supported and subscription based content on Livestand. Irving also demo’d “living ads” for Livestand, which offered rich media interactivity.
- IntoNow is a tablet-based TV companion app. Yahoo said that in the past six months it has seen traffic “double” from tablets. According to the PR materials, “IntoNow identifies what people are watching, whether live or recorded; shows related content and personalized recommendations; and enables discussions with friends.”
- Yahoo Mail was also upgraded for iPad with more visual content and “personalized news, local weather, and Trending Now videos.”
- Yahoo Weather (for Android): Yahoo introduced a richer weather application for Android devices, with images from Flickr (tied to time and location)
Among the four apps, IntoNow is the most interesting from afar.
Before and after the main announcements and demos, there was considerable of discussion of various Yahoo technologies (“CORE”). It was Yahoo again asserting “hey, we’re a technology company.” Yahoo also showcased “fresh faces” from startups the company had acquired. There was also an interesting discussion of a new emphasis on “design” at Yahoo, which seemed to be taking a page from the Steve Jobs playbook.
Yahoo also spent time discussing social integration across its properties and apps. The company spoke in particular about myriad social tools now being rolled out for Yahoo News. My sense of many of these features is that they were a bit “forced” and cumbersome but Yahoo cited traffic stats to suggest they were working or would work to engage audiences.
I was asked by someone after the event was over, “does this move the needle?”
Whether or not Yahoo sees any traffic benefits from these apps, Yahoo is doing the right thing in seeking to re-establish momentum in mobile and build apps that associate its brand with innovation and “cool stuff” rather than simply management turmoil.
Speaking of which, to his credit, Blake Irving acknowledged the uncertainty about Yahoo’s future. But Irving also sought to put to rest a persistent issue that has dogged the company for the past several years. He rhetorically asked and answered the question “what is Yahoo?” He said, “Yahoo is the premier digital media company. Full stop.”