Interesting New York Times profile of Lloyd Braun, the former ABC television executive who is now head of the Yahoo! Media Group. Mr Braun's strategy to make Yahoo a media powerhouse has four pillars, according to the NY Times article:
- Search - to compete with Google
- Community - content contributed by "everyday users and semiprofessionals like bloggers".
- Professionally created content, made both by Yahoo and other traditional media providers.
- Personalization technology - "to help users sort through vast choices to find what interests them."
Braun also talked about the convergence of television and computers, based on the projected growth of video content on the Web. To complement this trend, Yahoo will be releasing a video player near the end of the year. It'll feature personalization functionality and will be "almost be like a television set". This is similar to what Microsoft is doing with its Media Center and what Google is rumored to be doing, only unlike those two companies Yahoo will be producing original content. And let's not forget AOL, who were lauded for their Web video coverage of Live8 and is owned by media heavyweight Time Warner.
There's a lot more riding on Yahoo's content than on Microsoft or Google's. Yahoo is in a very real sense inventing a new media format, whereas Microsoft and Google can sit back and let the content come to them from existing broadcasters and cable companies. But I'd like to think there are tremendous rewards for Yahoo! if they get it right, because there's no doubt in my mind that the Web demands a new type of video media. As the Times wrote:
"So Mr. Braun's job is straightforward: invent a medium that unites the showmanship of television with the interactivity of the Internet. Find a way to combine the best of Hollywood's talent with the voice of the masses. And do it all before the biggest media and technology companies get there first."
On the question of "talent", I think there's a lot of scope to discover new talent via the Web - and not just rely on Hollywood or other 'celebrities'. I'm sure Yahoo! realizes this and will be as innovative in choosing their talent as they will be in delivering it.
There's also a lot of potential in enabling users to review and remix content - and using the resulting collective intelligence to drive its personalization and recommendation systems. All of this is consistent with the Web 2.0 ethos of users creating value - what Tim O'Reilly calls "the secret sauce of all successful Web 2.0 applications". Josh Porter adds that surprise is an essential part of Yahoo's vision, citing Jeff Bezos's 2003 comment about Amazon's web services: "It's like an ecosystem. People are doing things that surprise us".
Yahoo's media TV innovations will surely shake up the television industry. I look forward to a new era of interactivity and - more importantly - creativity for video media.