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Yahoo Sets Out to 'Remake' Yahoo News

Documentary series 'Remake America' will track families struggling with economy
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Remake America is a new weekly series that will trace six middle-class families as they struggle to deal with a still-recovering U.S. economy. The documentary-styled show will run through the remainder of the year, examining how these families cope—and eventually how they elect to vote in the 2012 presidential election.

Sound like something you'd probably find on CNN? Think again. Remake America is the latest product of Yahoo News, which is looking to own the 2012 election season like never before—and use that coverage to bolster its user loyalty.

“Historically, we’ve been a portal known for aggregating someone else’s content,” said Robertson Barrett, vp of Yahoo News and Finance. “This puts us on a new track. We’re looking to earn our return visitors.”

That’s always been the knock, if there is one, regarding Yahoo News. The site’s got a massive user base, but buyers often grumble that its users are less loyal. But Barrett points to internal data showing that Yahoo News readership rarely exhibits the news-driven dips seen by the major cable news networks.

Regardless, going forward Yahoo is continuing to assemble more prominent journalists, like former New York Times columnist Virginia Heffernan, and “more voice and more franchises,” said Barrett—all aimed at differentiating the site. The model within the company is Yahoo Sports, which has become known for breaking major news stories, like this week’s drug controversy surrounding the Syracuse University basketball program. “We want that identity for Yahoo News as well,” said Barrett.

Remake America should help. The show will feature families such as the North Carolina couple Bill and Donna, who are struggling with major health issues and a failing small business, and the Missouri couple Kyle and Krystal, who are facing limited work options due to Kyle’s war injury and an ill child.

"These are regular middle class people facing challenges,” said Barrett.

During the series, which will introduce the show’s six couples over its first six weeks, subjects will visit with various financial experts offering advice on their plight. Plus, viewers will be able to weigh in via Facebook, and Yahoo News will also regularly post polling questions tied to major life decisions the subjects must wrestle with.

When developing Remake America, Barrett pointed to Yahoo’s ability to target its content to numerous demographics. But perhaps the most eye-opening statistic was Yahoo’s overall reach. “We reach 95 percent of the electorate,” Barrett claimed.

Plus, Yahoo now reaches much of ABC’s audience as part of a recent partnership between the two companies. While Remake America was in development before the two news organizations joined hands, Yahoo plans to take advantage of ABC’s clout. Barrett said it is likely that ABC News and Good Morning America will regularly promote the series during its run.

Yahoo has yet to sign on any advertisers to sponsor Remake America, but per Barrett, the plan is to go after several major brands with a variety of ad opportunities.