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Yahoo! Wants to Get More Personal

Written on
Mar 17, 2010 
Author
Peter Koeppel  |

hug_smallRecently, Yahoo!’s CEO Carol Bartz spoke about the importance of creating a more personal experience for Yahoo! users, one that would tailor the search experience to their interests.

She hopes they’ll access their social media through the Yahoo! site as well, with tweets and Facebook postings being viewed on users’ Yahoo! pages instead of (or in addition to) what’s posted on main social media sites themselves.

If Yahoo! can pull off becoming a more personalized channel for users to experience the Internet, it may gain back some of the ground it has recently lost to Google and Bing. It’s worth noting, though, that while their ambition is interesting, the execution thus far has been decidedly shaky.

Yahoo! and Twitter…..What Does Their Future Look Like?

One good example of this execution is Yahoo!’s recent partnership with Twitter, a somewhat late entrance into the real-time social media channel.

Google and Bing have for some time been incorporating real-time results into their search engine capabilities, and Yahoo!’s alliance with Twitter, while a strong move, may not be enough to catch up to, much less overtake, the other search engines.

Another hiccup in the process is the fact that Yahoo! doesn’t seem to fully realize the potential of the Twitter alliance. So far, Yahoo!’s search results offer the usual list of relevant websites, but they now come alongside two recent tweets and two YouTube videos (also garnered from Twitter) related to the search topics.

The idea is interesting, but it hardly goes far enough.

Yahoo!’s algorithm appears to simply take the most recent tweets that mention the same keywords as the search engine query, which means the user could get anything from the inane to the relevant to the full-on spam message.

Though Bing currently powers Yahoo!’s search capabilities and comes up with highly relevant websites in response to queries, it appears that the algorithm does not yet extend to finding the most relevant tweets.

This may be a reflection of Yahoo!’s current relationship with Bing. Though Bing provides Yahoo!’s back end and powers Yahoo!’s search engine, the two companies have independent front-ends and are thus in the unique position of being simultaneously partners and rivals in the realm of social networking.

The algorithm for incorporating tweets into search engine results on the front-end clearly needs to be honed, but Bing may be unwilling to provide Yahoo! with the capability, when it could easily put the same technology to use itself, and reap the front-end benefits.

It’s not surprising that Bing doesn’t feel any filial duty toward Yahoo! in this regard: Yahoo!’s CEO has made it clear that Bing is simply its back-end provider, but that the partnership does not extend to the front-end at all.

If Yahoo! can, it will surpass Bing in providing a more popular, more personal Internet experience. That means Bing is better off keeping any back-end technology that improves the incorporation of social media to itself – and its own front-end.

Now Comes Facebook

Twitter isn’t the only foray Yahoo! has made into social media recently, however.

Just recently, Yahoo! announced that users of its email service would now be able to incorporate information from Facebook directly into their contact lists. This is the first step in Yahoo!’s ultimate strategy to add Facebook Connect to more of its web offerings.

Facebook Connect allows users to personalize third-party sites using elements from their Facebook pages, which makes it a good fit with Yahoo!’s vision of creating a web platform where users can personalize their experience.

However, critics of the move say that Yahoo!’s determination to capitalize on existing social media, instead of creating its own takes on current trends, indicates that Yahoo! is doomed to failure in the social media field.

These critics point to Google Buzz as an example; while the service certainly incorporates the same style as many existing social media platforms, it is a decidedly unique service that attempts to improve on some of the problems and provide even better innovations.

Competing With Google: Ready Or Not?

Yahoo!’s single-minded focus on simply placing existing social media onto its web platform, without innovating its own solutions, may be an indicator that the company is simply not ready to compete with Google – or, to a lesser extent, its partner/rival Bing.

On the other hand, it’s much more difficult to convince people to give up their new favorite social media toy than it is to ask them to bring their toy to a new platform. Users already love Facebook and Twitter; if Yahoo! can provide a way for users to enjoy and use those social media channels through its own web platform, it may actually be able to come out ahead in this race.





Peter Koeppel is Founder and President of Koeppel Direct, a leader in direct response television, online, print and radio media buying, marketing and campaign management. With a Wharton MBA and over 25 years of marketing and advertising experience, Peter has helped Fortune 500 companies; small businesses and entrepreneurs develop direct marketing campaigns to increase profits.

Peter started Koeppel Direct in 1995 and has built it into one of the leading direct response media-buying firms in the U.S. Follow me on Twitter.

Reader Comments.

Yahoo has been lagging for years…
frankly, I think the trend will continue…
they are overrated and sooooooooo last year…

Posted by cm | 2:05 pm on March 25, 2010.

I agree that yahoo isn’t being innovative enough and that they are far from being the top dog. I do like that they are trying to incorporate more social into their mail and other aspects of yahoo.

Posted by Fred Ranchero | 2:57 pm on February 14, 2011.

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