Yahoo Goes Local, Signs Groupon, Gilt City

On the heels of Facebook’s recent local retailer initiative tied to Facebook Places, Yahoo has begun testing its own local offers aggregation product.

The company declined to provide many details on what form the program will actually take or how it will work financially, but did reveal that 20 partners had signed on, including the red-hot e-mail coupon firms Groupon and Gilt City. The idea will be to provide a central means of accessing multiple offers from a collection of retail companies in one place, said officials. Users may begin encountering a “local deals for you” section on the Yahoo home page or when they log in to Yahoo Mail.

Yahoo is sharing revenue with each of its partners, but declined to provide specific details on its financial terms. “It will be mutually beneficial,” said chief product officer Blake Irving during a press event at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

During that event, Irving attempted to articulate Yahoo’s vision, using a periodic table — like visual presentation. Among Yahoo’s multiple grand yet vague ambitions are to “bring more personal meaning to the Web,” said Irving, and to “be where the customer goes.”

Yahoo also wants to build an ecosystem for advertisers, while engaging and delighting consumers, said Irving. And ultimately, the company wants to grow its user base from 300 million to 1 billion — though Irving acknowledged that growth wouldn’t all happen on Yahoo-branded properties.

Thus, Yahoo continues to integrate its brand on other platforms. For example, the company has begun integrating Yahoo Messenger with both Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, Yahoo Games, Yahoo Mail and other channels are now integrated with Zynga, the company behind massively popular social games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars — games that are primary played on Facebook.

Besides looking to extend its reach beyond its own walls, Yahoo continues to invest in its own channels, though perhaps in a more cost-effective manner. During the press event, execs shed more light on the Yahoo Contributor Network, which was announced on Monday. As part of that program, Yahoo is using Associated Content — the network of independent and freelance contributors it acquired earlier this year — to provide supplemental content to its top sites, such as Yahoo Sports and Yahoo News.

“This allows these contributors to be published on the largest sites on the planet,” said Irving.

Yet that tactic certainly opens up Yahoo to criticism — such as the idea that it may be gradually pushing aside professional content from its top properties for amateur fare. But Associated Content co-founder and now Yahoo vp, gm Luke Beatty dismissed such concerns.

“This isn’t about replacing people,” he said. “There is a huge demand for authentic voices. Some of this will be ‘right there, right place’ content. But this is really about trying to find the most qualified people [who often aren’t journalists]. When we are doing a story on a certain type of dog, no one is more qualified than a breeder of that dog. But if we are covering the gas and oil industry, no one is more qualified than reporters who cover that.”