With bikini season approaching, Yahoo’s all about trimming the fat. Last month the company announced that it would lay off 2,000 employees as part of then-CEO Scott Thompson’s plan to create a “smaller, nimbler, more profitable” company. Now the company has opted to close its digital magazine iPad app Livestand, which was billed as the company's answer to tablet reading platforms like Flipboard.
In a blog post announcing the news, Yahoo doesn’t specify why it’s fingered Livestand as one of the first in what will be a series of product discontinuations, but the app was a pet project of Blake Irving, who stepped down as chief product officer in April. So there’s that. (in early 2012, Irving delivered a memorable keynote address at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's annual meeting during which he showcased Livestand).
Yahoo said it’s transitioning towards a mobile-first product strategy, pointing to the Axis search browser unveiled earlier this week as an example, but that doesn’t explain why a mobile product like Livestand is among the first to go. At one point, Yahoo touted Livestand as both the vehicle via which Yahoo's own sites would translate best to tablets, as well as a platform for magazine companies like Surf magazine to transport their titles to the iPad. But the product was plagued by delays, and failed to capture much interest among publishers outside of Yahoo.
Cold comfort for Livestand fans (anyone out there?) is that Yahoo will put insights from Livestand toward future mobile products.
“With all the great things we learned from people’s interactions with Livestand, we know we can create beautiful, easy-to-use HTML5 media properties that give the richest experiences to the most people,” the company said.
Simultaneous with the launch of Livestand, Yahoo rolled out an interactive ad unit called Living Ads which Toyota used to promote its Prius model. Yahoo’s director of mobile and tablet advertising Alex Linde described Living Ads to Adweek as “like the Harry Potter newspapers” shortly after the product launched last November.
At the time Yahoo said readers were twice as likely to spend time with the ad as with a static ad. Living Ads were part of a bundled Livestand buy offered advertisers that could run up to $500,000 depending on the brand’s involvement and length of the sponsorship. It's unclear what happens to Living Ads going forward.
The elimination of Livestand somewhat declutters an otherwise crowded digital newsstand market for iPads, with Flipboard perceived as the leader trailed by others like CNN’s Zite, Google’s Currents and AOL’s Editions.