Friday, February 18, 2011

Yahoo’s Livestand Digital Newsstand Coming Soon

To start things off at the Mobile World Congress on Wednesday, February 16, Yahoo offered a demo of its Livestand digital newsstand app which the company plans to release soon. The executives at Yahoo have promised that the app for tablets will offer personalized content in an elegant format which will cater to the millions of Yahoo users who access the company’s content via their mobile devices.

"We have 630 million users who come to Yahoo on a monthly basis, and we noticed that our users are going more and more mobile," said Cris Pierry, senior director of Yahoo Mobile. "What Livestand is designed to do is to facilitate that transition from the PC to mobile [so they still] have a compelling way to consume content from Yahoo."

Now, this does not mean that Yahoo will be disappearing from the Web. The company said that it will not only be offering a tablet version of the Livestand app, but a little later in the year, a smartphone version and Web version will be made available. For now though, the company really wants to focus on catering to the tablet industry and more specifically to the iPad and Android-based devices. Recently there has been quite a bit of buzz about publications being built explicitly for tablets including Rupert Murdoch’s “The Daily” and Richard Branson’s “Project” magazine; however, Pierry says that Yahoo isn’t looking to compete with those publications but instead to compliment them.

"I consider them a potential partner," Pierry said. "I consider Livestand as a platform where 'The Daily' content can also be published and distributed. For us this is really about creating this eco-system to enable publishers ... to distribute that content through a variety of devices."

Since Yahoo wants to be consider a “potential partner,” this means that Livestand will feature content from both Yahoo properties and other outside publications. Livestand itself is very easy to use. On the iPad, if you tap on the app, you will be brought to a screen that shows one main story on top and three or four smaller stories on the bottom. All of the stories include fantastic pictures to go along with the articles, and all of the stories that show up are customized based on the preferences that have been determined by your previous Yahoo activity.

As you continue through the story, Livestand will organize advertisements and comments that are customized to you. Say you decide to post a story to Facebook, if someone comments on it, that comment could appear as an in-line box in the story, and you can simply click to discuss it further. There are also interactive ads that make things a little more interesting.

Now if you’re concerned about privacy at all, Pierry said that all of your Yahoo data is completely secure.

"We take privacy very seriously; we're not sharing that information with third parties," he said. "We're basically using the same technology that we use today. The idea is that the publisher will take all their content, they'll submit it into the Yahoo content repository, and then we're going to [take] what we know about the customer and the content the publisher [submits] and then we'll mix and match. We're not really sharing your personal information; we're just using what we know about you to deliver content for you."

Pierry said that as of right now Yahoo has no plans to charge for their content on Livestand. Later on though, publishers may have the option for a subscription model for access to their content.

On Wednesday at a keynote presentation at MWC, Yahoo’s chief Carol Bartz said that Livestand really offers content with a “unique blend of science, art and scale.”
"We all know that the world's entire content is going digital; it has to," Bartz said. She said that she really pushed the concept of "content in context" as the "sweet spot" for Yahoo. She said that it is definitely something that Livestand will highlight.

"We want your content to be personal," she said. "We've tailored a solution and the whole concept is that it's built from the ground up ... publish once, run on any device and have it actually be tailored."

Pierry said that the solution is to simply have a algorithmic page layout (ATL). The layout decides how Yahoo wants to lay out the Livestand pages "based on a variety of different signals," he said. "Some of it is on the relevance of the content to me, some of it is based on popularity across the platform." ATL also will take into account if there is any multimedia that is associated with the story.

This app is really cool. It caters completely to the user. Yahoo really did a fantastic job. It will be very interesting to see what they do with the smartphone and Web versions later in the year.

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