Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) launched its long-awaited Livestand news-reader app Tuesday during an event at company headquarters, promising that the experience would be compelling to both readers and advertisers. It also took the wraps off a new iPad version of the IntoNow TV-companion application and shed a little more light on the technology behind its new products.
“Livestand is reimaging what Yahoo can be,” said Yahoo’s Blake Irving, chief product officer. He briefly acknowledged the swirling questions around Yahoo’s future following the departure of CEO Carol Bartz, but declared that the company is still focused on products and its overall mission: to be “the premier digital media company.”
As tablets (really, the iPad) have grown more and more popular, so have apps designed to present news articles in a tablet-friendly fashion. The success of apps like Flipboard, Zite, and Pulse have drawn attention from the bigger digital publishing companies, and Yahoo announced Livestand earlier this year as its take on the notion of a tablet news-reader app fed by social-media connections and personalization.
It was supposed to be out a while ago, but it’s finally available in Apple’s App Store, Irving said (The app was not necessarily available right away, these things tend to roll out gradually). The app is not all the different from its competitors in terms of article presentation, but it has space for immersive ads built with HTML5 that will likely draw interest from brands and advertising agencies. Irving demonstrated how Livestand readers could click within an ad for special features and additional information about the products featured in the ad.
Irving thinks Livestand’s advantage is the deals Yahoo cut with niche publishers, providing content in a news-reader app that you can’t find elsewhere, he said. He also said video content would be more compelling on Livestand than on the apps of competitors.
Disney (NYSE: DIS) and Toyota are launch partners with Livestand, Irving said. It’s a U.S.-only app for now, and while Yahoo promised to bring the app to other countries with other publishing partners, it did not provide a time frame for doing so.
Yahoo also launched other products:
–IntoNow for iPad: This application is designed to be a supplement for someone who is watching TV while playing around with their iPad: “The single most popular time to use your tablet is while your’re watching TV,” said Adam Cahan, senior vice president for Yahoo and the leader of IntoNow, which Yahoo acquired in April. The iPad version of the app can use sound-recognition technology and closed-captioning information to figure what’s currently playing on your TV, surfacing related headlines and other content that is similar to the topic being discussed on the small screen.
–Social Features: The only non-mobile thing Yahoo unveiled Tuesday was a new notifications strategy for socially connected Yahoo users. Logged-in users (with OpenID, Facebook Connect, or a Yahoo ID) will be able to see how their friends have read and/or commented on news articles and other products throughout the Yahoo universe. For example, instead of being notified about a proposed trade in one’s fantasy football league via e-mail, the new social features will allow members of a league to receive notifications through a “universal header” that will sit atop Yahoo content, said Mike Kerns, vice president of social, games and personalization for Yahoo.
–Cocktails: While there are probably a few people at Yahoo driven to drink before lunch given the uncertainty surrounding the company, the Cocktails Yahoo unveiled Tuesday morning are actually two new development technologies for Web developers. Mojito allows engineers to write application code once and have it ready to be deployed across multiple formats, and Manhattan is a hosted service that can accommodate new applications very quickly. The company eventually plans to open-source both technologies, it said. More information (that developers can more easily grok) can be found here.