Yahoo is making a big move onto tablets. It's launching an iPad news reading app called Livestand (which was announced earlier this year), with a new ad unit called "Living Ads."
The company made the announcement at its headquarters today at a Product Runway event. Executives didn't refer directly to the firing of CEO Carol Bartz, but they acknowledged that there are questions about Yahoo's future. The company has been criticized for lacking focus or a clear identity, but chief product officer Blake Irving said it's now "easy" to explain what Yahoo is. It aims to be "the premier digital media company."
As for Livestand, it offers a magazine-style layout of personalized news, mixing Yahoo properties with more than 100 partner publications including ABC News, Forbes, and Surfer magazine. The app is iPad-only for now, Irving said, but the company will be launching on other platforms as well.
Yahoo is also trying to take advantage of the iPad's capabilities to offer a richer advertising experience. Paul Cushman, the company's director of mobile sales, showed off Living Ads to Adweek last week. The goal is to create a glossy, magazine-style ad in the HTML5 format. A Living Ad runs alongside Livestand content, taking up a full third of the tablet screen. To attract readers' attention, that ad includes animation and even responds to movement through the iPad's accelerometer, and it can be opened to take over the whole screen, where users can watch video and interact in other ways.
Yahoo is announcing two Living Ads campaigns to start—one for the Toyota Prius and another for the Dreamworks Pictures film War Horse. Showing off a test ad, Cushman said, "This wasn't cheap, but it looks fantastic."
Of course, it's hard to support an app with nothing but expensive, high-production value advertising. Over time, Cushman said, Living Ads should become more affordable. In the meantime, Yahoo is also running the more common rich media and image ads in Livestand.