CES 2014: Yahoo realizing digital media dreams with News Digest, Aviate deal

If Google and Microsoft are shunning CES 2014, then it makes perfect sense that Yahoo would seize the opportunity to step in.


Ever since Marissa Mayer took over the reins in 2012, there could be one word used to define Yahoo's revolutionized business strategy since then: mobile.

Mayer has also been known to seize opportunities (if not just plenty of startups) that have been abandoned by the likes of some other Silicon Valley giants -- and the Consumer Electronics Show looks to be one of them.

The CEO took to the stage in Las Vegas on Tuesday as the search company unveiled two projects intended to change the face of Yahoo's mobile portfolio, albeit in different ways.

The big ticket item is the long-awaited debut of Yahoo's mystery news project, which has been been hyped up for months now following the widely-reported hires of the likes of New York Times columnist David Pogue and former CBS News anchor Katie Couric.

Finally executing the dream once shared by some of the company's previous chiefs, Yahoo is becoming a fully-fledged digital media property with the introduction of Yahoo News Digest.

Based primarily upon Yahoo's purchase of Summly nearly one year ago for reportedly $30 million , Yahoo News Digest sports a remarkably clean, modern interface, displaying what Yahoo product manager Nick D’Aloisio referred to a blog post as "atoms."

Does this mean "atoms" are the new cards seen on apps like Google Now? Not quite. Here's how they work, according to D’Aloisio:

We’ve taken summarization to the next level with News Digest, by algorithmically and editorially selecting the important articles and using multi-document summarization to identify the key ‘bits and pieces of information’. We’ve named these bits and pieces “Atoms.” Our Atoms assembled from around the web include articles, maps, infographics, Wikipedia extracts, videos, photos and more. Stories contain different atomic units which convey different dimensions of the story from the who, what, when, how, and why of a topic.

Farther within the emerging Yahoo media department (and likely to appear front and center stage on News Digest) are the original content sections revolving around those major aformentioned hires.

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Pogue introduced Yahoo Tech, which he argued are more than just product reviews but rather context and commentary on consumer technology. Yahoo is also branching out into the foodie scene, pushed to the forefront of the social media world mostly thanks to Instagram and Pinterest.

With editors from revered culinary glossies such as Bon Appetit and Gourmet, Yahoo Food will serve as a very visually-heavy hub for information about new cooking techniques, products, recipes, and tools.

Yahoo News Digest is initially only available for iPhone and iPod touch.


But that doesn't mean Yahoo is shunning Android.

Actually, it looks like Yahoo has big plans for Google's mobile operating system this year too with the acquisition of Aviate, a San Francisco-based startup that develops an "intelligent homescreen," automatically organizing apps and surfacing apps that the algorithms within the platform deem most relevant and useful.

Adam Cahan, senior vice president of Mobile and Emerging Products at Yahoo, noted in a blog post that Yahoo will be pinning Aviate as the centerpiece of its Android experience in 2014 and "beyond."

We envision homescreens becoming smarter, more personalized, aware of your context. Aviate helps us bring this vision to life. Aviate auto-categorizes apps on your Android phone and intelligently gathers them into “spaces.” By using signals to understand your context - WIFI, GPS, Accelerometer, Time, etc - Aviate automatically surfaces information at the moment it’s useful. So whether you’re just waking up, driving, at work, or maybe out for the night, Aviate learns your habits and helps anticipate the information and apps you need - making your phone smarter.

Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Aviate is still in private beta, but it is being made available in invite-only mode to the first 25,000 people who use code "YAHOO" when signing up.

For a closer look at how Aviate operates (or operated, at least pre-Yahoo), check out the promo clip below:

Screenshots via Yahoo, Aviate