) officially announced that it had hired ABC journalist and
television personality Katie Couric as a so-called "global anchor,"
continuing its series of investments in journalism and original
content. According to Marissa M's
on Tumblr, Couric will be tasked with "shooting features for our
homepage," as well as generally being "the face of Yahoo News."
Despite the much ado about Couric switching to Yahoo the move does
have some precedence. In 2011, Yahoo and ABC signed a deal to share
news content, reporting resources, and original video. And Couric's
daytime Web show,
, is available on both ABC and Yahoo. Though Couric will give up
her position as a prime-time host for ABC, she will continue to
host her daytime talk show on the network.
Of course, the Couric acquisition continues a long line of
similarly high-profile poaching. In September, Yahoo News named
Megan Liberman, formerly the Deputy News Editor at the
New York Times
, its Editor-in-Chief. In October, tech columnist David Pogue,
longtime writer for the
New York Times
, announced he would be leaving the paper to start a
consumer-centric tech site for Yahoo. Earlier this month, star
political writer Matt Bai announced he would also be leaving the
paper to take a position as political columnist for Yahoo. Now
Couric joins the list.
Why is Yahoo investing so aggressively in journalism? One reason:
It is on trend. The higher-ups of Internet media have been
seemingly scrambling to integrate star reporters and more
traditional ways of reporting the news with the newest media
platforms. Pierre Omidyar, the
) billionaire, is building a new site around Glenn Greenwald, the
journalist who became noteworthy for his reporting on the Edward
Snowden NSA leaks. ESPN was able to persuade Nate Silver, perhaps
the most famous statistician in the world, to leave his post at the
New York Times
to build a presence at the world's biggest sports network.
But why does this trend exist? It all comes down to declining
display-ad revenue. Globally, both ad sales numbers and the average
price per ad are down. Since taking the reins at Yahoo in July
2012, Mayer has sought to drive up traffic with significant
redesigns of the company's Web and mobile properties, as well as
its logo, aiming to offset the decline in ad revenue.
According to Brian Solis, an analyst at Altimeter Group, Couric has
experience creating news items that are targeted specifically to
mobile, which he thinks may have been at least a small portion of
her appeal to Yahoo. As he said in an interview with
, "The two [Mayer and Couric] are going to really play to see if
they can create news on demand, news to go, news that adapts to
each of the screens. I could see Marissa creating a sales team and
a set of products that will be native to each of those screens." .
Mayer has been vocal about the fact that she believes video content
will be crucial for her business going forward. In addition to
Couric, who will obviously be bringing premium video content to
Yahoo, Mayer has invested not just in news. In April, she announced
to air all
Saturday Night Live
skits from the last 38 years on Yahoo.
Video is great, we all like to watch it, but is a major investment
in premium content really going to work for Yahoo? Brian Weiser, an
analyst at Pivotal Research Group, remains skeptical. He believes
that ad revenue problems for big sites like Yahoo run much deeper
than a lack of premium, original content. Instead, he sees falling
ad revenue as the result of changes in the process of buying ads.
These days, marketers are able to bid in real time for the best
deals on ads, which tends to drive down the average ad price for
large media companies like Yahoo.
As Weiser also told Mashable, "It's not clear to me that [Yahoo]
appreciates the scale of the destruction that's wrought the
industry. There are huge issues that are not going to be overcome
by employment of a celebrity brand."
Whether Weiser is on to something or not, investors have been
buying into Mayer's take on things. Since she joined the company
last year, Yahoo's stock has appreciated 132.72%, though much of
that increase is credited to Yahoo's purchase of
(OTCMKTS:ALBIY). Obviously, major journalists are buying into the
Yahoo way of doing things, so much so that they have abandoned
positions at leading news organizations. Now all we can do is stay
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