Can football trash talk help boost Yahoo's ad business?

Keeping users engaged on the Yahoo site for longer periods of time is the first of many steps toward a stronger advertising business - and Yahoo has its sights set on football fans to hang out for the season.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

Are you ready for some football?

I know I am - and, based on some comments made by Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz during the company's earnings call yesterday, Yahoo seems to be ready for some football, too.

Football, like the World Cup, is one of those sports whose fans are passionate, loyal and competitive. It's a game where fans turn to technology - whether text message, Facebook status or tweet - to virtually high-five or trash-talk each other. It's also where they turn for updates on scores, stats and standings for the fantasy league.

Yahoo - in its effort to keep users engaged on its site longer than the few seconds it takes to run a search query, answer an email or check a stock quote - has enhanced its online football experience in a way that will hopefully keep users engaged with the content, even interactive video ads targeted at football fans.

During yesterday's conference call with analysts, Bartz said that big brands love unique social campaigns that allow users to engage more deeply with Yahoo! content and interact with friends and advertisers. During the call, she was a name-dropper. She said:

One of the levers we are using to create engagement and distribute our great content is through social channels. Our acquisition of Citizen Sports is beginning to pay off in this area. We've already signed a number of multi-million dollar joint partnerships with major consumer-facing brands.

Fantasy Football is a big business. In this season, users will be able to like their own Fantasy team on Yahoo! and receive personalized updates about players, injuries, and advice delivered directly to their news feed on Facebook and their Yahoo! Updates, all sponsored by Miller Lite.

College football passions run deep. This season, users on Yahoo! will be able to pick who they believe is going to win and broadcast it and debate it with their friends on Facebook, sponsored by Southwest Airlines.

Of course, the whole point here is to keep people on Yahoo's site longer so they can be subjected to just as much advertising - if not more - than what they're being subjected to during TV broadcasts of the live games. Better yet, the point isn't just to put advertising in front of them. A better way to keep them engaged on the site is to keep the interaction lively. About the World Cup, Bartz offered this recap:

When it comes to online coverage of the World Cup, our site was hugely successful, thanks mostly to our efforts to bring the event to users in new and innovative ways.

In addition to a special soccer channel on our network, we unveiled new shortcuts in search and launched a new Yahoo! Toolbar featuring World Cup coverage. That toolbar had more than 250,000 downloads and very high engagement. Scores and news modules received more than 50% of total clicks on the toolbar, and initial engagement showed four times more click intensity and eight times more searches per user when compared with our normal toolbar.

We also had the largest global launch of any fantasy product yet. Fans were able to play the World Cup game in 22 countries and 10 languages. This was due to the investments we made in the underlying fantasy platform, in line with what we did with the entertainment platforms

Yahoo is in this game to generate those ad dollars. By building tools, games and other online activities unique to the sporting event being played, the company is hoping that those same engaged users will interact with others and eventually conduct longer sessions on Yahoo sites.

For Yahoo, that engagement is the first of many steps needed to grow a strong and competitive ad business.

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