Yahoo Is Streamlining Its Content in Hopes of Boosting Ailing Ad Business

Fewer verticals, more live video

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Yahoo said today that its plan to streamline the company will allow it to "double down" on fewer content verticals, expand live video, and more aggressively tout its tech and data capabilities to advertisers.

At this year's Digital Content NewFronts, the company is focusing on four core content verticals: news, lifestyle, sports and finance. CEO Marissa Mayer first mentioned the streamlined hubs during the company's February earnings call, when Yahoo announced plans to shutter some digital magazines and consolidate others.

Compared to previous years, Yahoo's 2016 NewFronts event today represents a smaller presentation, as it was closed to the press in favor of a private event for media buyers. (Last year, Yahoo revealed plans for a number of new original programs.) However, in an interview this morning, CRO Lisa Utzschneider described Yahoo's offerings as "more simplified," but in a way that allows the company to keep "growing and innovating in these areas and not just narrowing."

"We're just getting more focused in those content areas of priority and investing in those areas," Utzschneider said. "And I think we're getting better as a company in deprioritizing areas that don't make sense for our users and not investing there."

According to Yahoo, video advertising is one of the fastest-growing areas of the business, increasing 64 percent in 2015. Video production was also up 54 percent in 2015, while users consumed 55 percent more videos and spent an average of 85 percent more time with the content.

In 2016, Yahoo will broadcast 400 live sports events that it hopes will drive viewership and engagement. And the company plans to expand live coverage in all four core areas, Utzschneider said. Last week it livestreamed Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholder meeting, with TD Ameritrade and Scottrade coming on board as branded advertisers for the event. 

Utzschneider said Yahoo is also "doubled down" on adtech, having already acquired adtech platforms such as BrightRoll, Gemini and Flurry. Programmatic advertising now accounts for more than 50 percent of the company's overall revenue, which she said will continue to grow.

"We're seeing that shift; we're investing in the shift," Utzschneider said.

And yet, in the background of it all is the potential sale of the ailing company, whose advertising business has seen revenue decline in recent quarters while falling behind other tech giants. Last month, the company put its core internet business up for sale and has received bids from several suitors including Verizon and Google.

Asked how a potential sale factors into its pitch to advertisers, Utzschneider said the company is "heads-down focused on just keeping the trains moving on the business."

"We're so focused on ensuring that we're delivering our users the best content experiences and to keep them engaged and coming back for more," she said. "And we're also really focused on continuing to strengthen our partnerships with our advertisers and agencies."

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.