Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) revealed details of its mobile “personalization” initiative that were hinted at earlier this week. In a conference call led by Blake Irving, the company’s chief product officer, Yahoo’s The platform, dubbed “Livestand from Yahoo!,” represents Yahoo’s foray into the digital newsstand business that publishers have been pursuing on their own, as they’ve mainly sought to pit Google’s Android against Apple’s relatively closed App Store. It’s set to launch sometime in the first half of the year, but no firm date was announced.
“Tablets are great for a laid back experience, but most magazine content remains trapped online,” Irving said. “But consumers don’t want a digitized experience. They want a do-over. They want rich media; they want connections beyond just commenting. They want to engage with their content.”
Engaging with Livestand means that the more you read, the more the platform knows how to program certain content for you.
Secondly, Irving said that a big problem for publishers is taking advantage of the tablet format while managing the cost. “It’s out of reach for most publishers,” he said. “Plus, there’s consumer expectations. Most content on tablets are PDFs with some video. It’s a shallow and unrewarding experience.”
The assumption here is that Yahoo will be be able to address these issues with Livestand. At the center of Yahoo’s solution to publishers’ problems is its advertising tools and its existing work with the Yahoo Newspaper Consortium.
The call was then handed off to Irv Henderson, who noted that this project was in the works for a year. As an example, he showed off how Surfer magazine, which opens with a large box at the top and three smaller modules below, which resembles Flipboard and many other tablet news readers. The primary difference appears to be the breadth of Yahoo’s well-known content offerings such as Yahoo Finance, Flickr, omg!, and the Yahoo Contributor Network (fka Associated Content), albeit with social features.
Once Livestand launches, Yahoo plans to have magazine subscriptions — no specifics about who it’s lined up so far — as part of the mix as well. Secondly, although Livestand is initially aimed at the tablet, Henderson also said that it would ultimately be platform agnostic and will be available for smartphones and the PC. In addition to major publishers, Henderson said he envisions “two guys in a garage” being able to come up with a digital magazine and having the ability to upload their content to Livestand. “Keep in mind that it’s a platform, not an app, with its own publishing tools,” he added.
In terms of sharing stories, Yahoo sees content being sent from one tablet user to another, but it will be available outside the Livestand platform.
Henderson also said that Livestand’s personalization features are squarely in the hands of consumers, not advertisers, though the hope is that as users feel more comfortable sharing their interests, advertisers will be very comfortable spending more on the platform.