Do You Yo? And Should Your Newsroom Be Yo-ing?

yo-its-that-simpleIt’s getting harder and harder for me to keep up with what the kids are doing these days, but I’ve at least heard about ‘Yo’. If you haven’t heard of it yet, the app is a messaging service that bases its platform around the frequent sending of a two-letter word: “Yo.”

No fancy filtered photos. No emojis. Just one, single greeting (with possibly a link/short hashtagged tack-on, thanks to a recent update). Whenever you want to get someone’s attention, you simply send “Yo,” and ideally, your straightforward message would notify your friend, the receiver, as effectively as a text message or email might. According to the American Journalism Review‘s Cory Blair, the app has seen 2.6 million downloads since April 1 of this year. For whatever reason, people are really into “Yo-ing” eachother.

Reported Blair, the Washington Post‘s audience strategy and social media teams want to experiment with using the Yo app for letting readers know when stories have been published. As if Twitter’s 140-character limit doesn’t present enough of a communication challenge, Yo provides even less space for disseminating information. The idea is to have WaPo readers and social media followers who use the Yo app to follow the newspaper on Yo. Then when they have a story to share, they will send a “Yo” to subscribers, and those folks get a notification on their phone. No need to open up (or pay for) a news app to get instant access to news anymore. Others including NBC Nightly News and the Nieman Lab are doing it, too, Blair wrote. Publishers can choose how and when they want to “Yo” — it could only be for beat-specific stories or at a certain time of day.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 5.12.15 PMHere’s the thing: the Yo app provides little to no value. It almost seems like its popularity is due to people ironically downloading it simply because it is silly. The fact that newsrooms are beginning to use it as a method of sharing content — at least to me — indicates that our industry has absolutely no clue how people like to consume content. People are all over apps, and then it’s learned that they don’t download them. Mobile users like to search the web for news; then they want personal notifications. Time after time we have heard that visuals help readers to break down and remember information, yet there is the Yo app — sans imagery.

I don’t see how using the Yo app to share content does anything new or special for a publisher’s engagement team. It’s just like any other app or social platform: you can put it out there, but that doesn’t mean people will view it, or share it. You can “Yo” somebody, but that doesn’t mean the link will be clicked.

What do you think — should your newsroom be using the Yo app to communicate with readers? Is it just a fad? How much time should publishers invest in trying gimmicky new apps as opposed to focusing on engaging users in ways that have proven to work, like Facebook and Twitter?

For more information about Yo, click here.