Yahoo gains respect, credibility as news outlet; looks to expand offerings

Yahoo has discovered that being the source of breaking news will bring respect, credibility and clicks. Traditional news outlets have known this for years but Web sites like Yahoo are suddenly positioned to gain some ground as news outlets.

Yahoo, it appears, is discovering what news media companies have known for generations. Producing original quality editorial content, others will notice - whether readers, other news outlets or even advertisers. And by grabbing that sort of attention, the company also gains some credibility.

During a presentation at Yahoo's Analyst Day, company execs talked about the new respect that Yahoo Sports has received by breaking news, landing exclusive interviews and even creating original, on-the-fly content to accompany video clips or other daily highlights. (Techmeme)

As the company talks about its commitment to being a destination site for relevant information - as opposed to being a search engine like Google - the investment into original content seems to be paying off. Other sources, including ESPN and The Washington Post, are giving credit to the Yahoo for breaking news - and the company is seeing some great traffic on those posts. Likewise, Yahoo is also seeing some traction in original video.

What comes next? A similar strategy around the Entertainment, News and Finance verticals. But that's not to say that the company is looking to turn publisher partners into competitors. The majority of the content is licensed by third parties and much is it comes in on a revenue-sharing basis or on a "content for traffic" basis where no cash is exchanged but instead drives traffic to the partner site - basically help them build brand awareness and deliver clicks.

For some time, news publishers - mostly the newspapers - have been squawking about aggregators like Yahoo and Google, arguing that they are gaining traffic (and revenue) because of someone else's reporting work. In some ways, that's a fair argument. But in other ways, it's more of the head-buried-in-the-sand mentality.

Newspapers, unlike Yahoo and other Web sites, are still plagued by that yesterday's-news-on-a-dead-tree model that comes with a lot of financial overhead and isn't nearly as timely as the Internet. Sure, most newspapers have their own Web sites but with the millions of people who come to Yahoo everyday - whether to check their e-mail or look up a stock quote - doesn't it make sense for Yahoo to help distribute that news and drive some traffic back to the original source?

Yahoo has its own editorial news staff for Sports and now they're looking at beefing up the staffs for Entertainment, Finance and News. I know first-hand of way too many professional journalists who have been laid off by struggling newspapers and would probably jump at the chance to help Yahoo build a breaking news, find-it-here-first sort of news operation.

If publishers continue to squawk about keeping their content behind a wall, don't come crying when a Web company like Yahoo beats you at your own game - with the employees you trained.