Yahoo today raised the curtain on a new digital content platform called Livestand. It's not an app, the company said, but it is an app-like way, initially for tablet computers, to inject more life into magazines, as well as advertising. (Statement)
It's an interesting approach and, given Yahoo's recent push into content, it makes sense for the company to take this route. The thing to remember - before we start judging Yahoo or Livestand - is that Yahoo isn't announcing the availability of Livestand today. Instead, it's announcing the platform to potential content providers and advertisers, telling them that it's time to reinvent the magazine-flipping experience.
So what does Yahoo plan to offer with Livestand? In a nutshell, it's all about personalization. That's something that CEO Carol Bartz and Chief Product Office Blake Irving have been touting for months - whether it's on Yahoo's home page or within the Yahoo Email inbox.
While there are certainly magazines out there that attract a large piece of the overall audience, magazines tend to be more niche than, say, a daily newspaper. There are magazines for food aficionados, tattoo lovers, football junkies, fitness gurus and lovers of celebrity gossip. Name a niche and you'll certainly be able to find a magazine for it.
Alone, these small publishers may have trouble bringing their offerings on to the digital stage - at least in a way that makes for a compelling user experience. Sure, they can put that same magazine content on a Web site - but they'll still struggle to bring readers in, just as the work hard to get readers to pick their publication on a crowded newsstand.
In that sense, Livestand makes sense. That publisher, as part of Livestand, would be able to differentiate itself via interactive content or original features to try to bring in potential new readers - and advertisers - without having to take on the costly effort on its own. The company said it is working with some publishers now to prep for a full launch of the product this summer - but wouldn't disclose which ones.
For now, it's populated with Yahoo content only - which, actually, is a lot of content. But over time, the company envisions publishers of all sizes joining Livestand to beef up the offerings. And it also has visions of scaling the platform so that it's available on smartphones, as well.
Again, it's too early to say whether Yahoo has a winner on its hand with Livestand. But the idea is one whose time has come and Yahoo, which keeps trying to find ways to reinvent itself, may very well be the company that can bring it all together.