What Yahoo could bring to Microsoft: Some media sense

Yahoo launched Shine, a fashion and beauty site targeted at women, and the move illustrates one of the biggest assets the portal could bring to Microsoft--some media sense and the ability to target demographics.In fact, if Yahoo really wants Microsoft to raise its bid perhaps it should ditch the overly optimistic projections into 2010 and say the following: We know media.

Yahoo launched Shine, a fashion and beauty site targeted at women, and the move illustrates one of the biggest assets the portal could bring to Microsoft--some media sense and the ability to target demographics.

In fact, if Yahoo really wants Microsoft to raise its bid perhaps it should ditch the overly optimistic projections into 2010 and say the following: We know media. You don't. You have to learn media or you're toast.

While Google is the search giant Yahoo has always been a media company. Google wants to organize the world's information. Yahoo could live with entertaining you and being useful. Yahoo also gets this demographic thing. Yahoo Finance targets the investor class, Yahoo's Fantasy Sports sites hit that key male 18- to 34-year-old demographic and sites like Flickr hit the Web 2.0 crowd. Shine, announced Monday, will be another asset giving Yahoo a demographic bucket to sell advertising against.

What's comical is that Yahoo is playing down the demographic game. In Yahoo's blog announcing Shine (Techmeme), the company said:

When our editorial team - which includes editors that hail from Lucky to Jane to the Wall Street Journal - sat down to conceive it, we wanted to avoid all of the buckets that advertisers or marketers tend to put us in. We didn't want to be a site just for moms or just for single or working women, or any specific demo- or psychographic. We wanted to create a smart, dynamic place for women to gather, get info, and connect with each other and the world around them. The important thing wasn't how to talk to a 32.5 year-old with 2.2 kids but how to inspire you laugh, think, get mad, empathize, and be surprised and entertained.

So let's rephrase: Yahoo isn't interested in narrowcasting demographics. It wants big broad demographics. Instead of Cosmo women, Yahoo wants all women. It all makes sense--there's more inventory to sell.

Microsoft has no sense of the demographic bucket concept in media. Its sites resemble software in many respects. In terms of packaging there's something missing. Perhaps that something is Yahoo.

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Over the weekend, Kara Swisher, who reports that a Microsoft-Yahoo deal may be close, noted that Yahoo's media know-how is an asset.

Since it first started MSN back in the mid-1990s, Microsoft has not created one compelling Web property that truly has captured the imagination of consumers...For all its history, right down to today, even with all these dumb widgets competing for users' attention, Yahoo continues to natively understand how to entertain, inform and serve up their own and others content to consumers.

I'd argue that Yahoo's media skills are pretty damn important to Microsoft. The big question: How do you value that intangible?

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