Breadth, ease, not original content, is Yahoo aim
SAN FRANCISCO, May 18 (Reuters) Making online media more personally relevant rather than producing original content itself is the linchpin of Internet media leader Yahoo Inc., the head of its media business said.
Lloyd Braun, who joined Yahoo 18 months ago from Walt Disney Co to head Yahoo's Media Group, said he aims to distinguish Yahoo's text, picture and video properties through easier site navigation and by personalizing what users see.
Braun, who was widely expected to bring a Hollywood-style focus on original programming to Yahoo, has instead focused on making more interactive the programming it acquires from partners or which has been created by Yahoo users themselves.
Yahoo content -- from music to games, movies, television, entertainment, finance, news, weather, sports and so on-- is growing up from the legacy of endless links that Yahoo first indexed when it was founded 11 years ago into programming where Yahoo focuses on framing media choices for its users.
''We want to take the user on a journey,'' Braun told analysts and reporters at Yahoo's annual analyst meeting held here on Wednesday. ''We have to make sure that the user never reaches a dead end,'' he said.
As an example, Braun said visitors to Yahoo news will be offered a choice of types of stories around a particular subject.
Consumers looking for details on events such as US Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident might see mainstream news stories packaged alongside viewpoints from newspapers in Iraq, Israel, Europe and conservative and liberal US pundits as well as late-night television comedians, he said.
''We are going to spend more time framing choices for the users,'' Braun said.
Video programming will be sprinkled throughout Yahoo's network of properties via a simple embedded browser that can also be used to deliver advertising, he said.
Yahoo has no plans to embark on a Hollywood movie studio spending binge to create original content.
''I am not worried about exclusive content,'' Braun said. ''When you are on Yahoo, it (content) should feel exclusive,'' he said, referring to the overall presentation users experience.
Instead he promised ''disciplined spending'' on selective original content. ''Think of it as the salt and pepper on the meal, not the meal itself,'' Braun said.
Speaking to the same meeting, Terry Semel, chairman and chief executive of the Sunnyvale, California-based company, said about about 80 percent of the future growth of the Internet is coming outside of North America.
Chief Operating Officer Dan Rosensweig said Yahoo's bid to expand beyond computers onto mobile phones will get a big jump by making its services run on Java-based phones. This software layer will make Yahoo nearly universally available to the nearly 2 billion mobile phone users over the next 18 months.
Already, about 500 million touch Yahoo's brand at least once a month -- or roughly one in two of the world's Internet users.
That's up from 200 million and less than 100 million active users less than five years ago, Semel said.
Amid a sharp fall in the broader US market, shares of Yahoo dipped slightly, declining 20 cents to 30.77 dollars on Nasdaq yesterday.
''As the market sells off today, investors have tended to ignore Yahoo's pivotal analyst meeting,'' said Paul Foster, options strategist at financial-information Web site theflyonthewall.com.
''Traders over the last hour are purchasing Yahoo hedges to protect their further downside exposure in the stock.'' REUTERS SB PM1002