Yahoo unveiled a new personalized digital-newstand app called Livestand that will serve as a showcase for magazine content on tablets but will eventually drive the overall Yahoo experience across all devices, according to the company. Livestand, which will launch in the first of this year on iPad and Android Honeycomb tablets, is positioned as a way for publishers to easily tailor their content for tablets.
The platform will learn the interests of users and will serve up content that fits their tastes, the time of day and location, and Yahoo said the goal is to deliver content that maximizes the interactivity and sharing of the web with the intimacy of a tablet. Livestand will feature its own content along with select publishers at launch but will eventually be open to any content owner, the company said. The benefit to publishers is a simple platform that allows them to distribute their content dynamically and deepen relationship with users with minimal investment. They will be able to monetize through subscriptions as well as ads.
Yahoo’s Irv Henderson, vice president of mobile and connected devices, said Yahoo has already been using personalization technology to deliver 13 million different Yahoo home pages to users a day. That same back-end technology will power the personalization engine behind Livestand. While Livestand will start on tablets, it will reach smartphones, TVs and the desktop as well and will eventually serve as the face of Yahoo, Henderson said. “We see this is the next generation of Yahoo,” he said.
Yahoo’s CEO Carol Bartz, who has talked recently of stepping up the company’s game in mobile and reaching all manner of devices, is expected to reveal more details about Livestand at a keynote next week at the Mobile World Congress.
The play for mobile is a logical one, as users move increasingly to smartphones and tablets. Yahoo sees that it needs to move in this direction but it can’t just aggregate content. In order to compete with news reader apps like Flipboard and others, it needs to not only take explicit programming cues from users but also personalize the experience for them.
It will be interesting to see how publishers respond. Yahoo hasn’t disclosed who is on board with Livestand, though Henderson said it’s not simply about big brands. Livestand, he said, can be a great showcase for medium-sized titles that have faithful and passionate followings, who will respond well to seeing their content brought to live on tablets, and he expects other content providers such as newspaper will also likely make their way onto Livestand.
As Mathew has pointed out, magazines have have not made a good transition to tablets, in the sense that many are still just shallow copies of their printed products. By leveraging Livestand, publishers should be able to inject more interactivity into their content, and personalization. Henderson said users will be to comment on stories and will be able to share links with users, who will be able to open the content up in a browser. And the hope is this will all be more attractive to advertisers, who are still slow in moving to digital and mobile.
It’s still not clear how many publishers will turn to Yahoo, however, or what what kind of cut the company will take on subscriptions and ads, or how much ownership publications will have with their consumer relationship. These are issues that publishers are struggling with Apple on. A lot will depend on how elegant Yahoo can make the experience and whether it can make Livestand a true starting point for many users. But with many publishers struggling to translate their content for tablets, this could be a viable alternative.
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