Tag Archives: Yahoo News

Great Products Do Three Things….

2 Mar

Yahoo! is a complex place to build products, and I recall early in my tenure trying to focus our Media and Information Division on three core objectives that would be clear, undebatable and useful in building better consumer products.

I won’t go into the details of how we got there (although that’s an interesting story). But get there, we did. And we believed then, as I do today, that a great product:

1. Saves customers’ time.

2. Saves customers’ money.

3. Delights customers in new ways.

Seems simple? Well, in my experience this is far easier to say than it is to do.

I am reminded of this today because after some very hard work, the WHERE team (full disclosure: I am a board member) has launched a feature called Placebook in its new location-based app build that does all three. And thank heavens, because the pain relieved by this new release is large and longstanding.

Placebook is a constantly updatable ‘Rolodex’ of your (and your friends) favorite spots. You can use it on your IPhone. You can access it on the web. (They sync)! And you can FORGET having to REMEMBER all those names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.

You might be wondering “what’s the excitement?” Please let me answer that, from a personal POV.

Have you ever had the experience of knowing that the restaurant you love, in a city you visit frequently, is just around the corner somewhere. But you can’t recall the address, or exactly the route to get there, or even the restaurant’s name? Frustrating? Time-wasting? Totally useless?

The problem is solved. Go to a restaurant, or any favorite spot. Click once in the WHERE app to store it to your Placebook. Click again to give it a rating. And from now on, you can simply forget about having to remember. Once stored, your profile and Placebook will remember for you.

Now, the WHERE guys are not the first folks to think of this. There are countless listing and reviews services. There are competitors. Once upon a time there was a clever startup called Vindigo that did something similar. It was useful, too.

But Placebook is a big step forward, right now.

Of course, simply building such great features as Placebook are no guarantee in and of themselves of a huge business success. Building better products is simply a gating issue that allows successful companies onto the battlefield that will determine their ultimate ability to go from ‘Good to Great’ as Jim Collins puts it.

But it is a great start to have a great product, filled with useful features. And — on behalf of busy, forgetful people all over, thank you to the WHERE team for solving this particular problem.

News on a printed page?

25 Jan

News on a printed page is a product in tremendous transition, and vital signs are not strong. Several recent headlines (only a few them printed):

— The French government is going to “rescue” that nation’s newspaper industry by providing 18 year olds with state-subsidized free subscriptions.
— Hearst Corp. without warning announces plans to close the Seattle Post Intelligencer if a buyer cannot be found.
— Carlos Slim’s financial “rescue” of the New York Times Co. involves extending the company $250 million at 14% interest at the same time as the company is selling interests in real estate and other assets to raise new cash.
— Fewer and fewer people are getting their news from the printed page as other sources (of course the internet first among them) become more widely used sources of news.

As a longtime newsman, I have been struck by these and other signs of the impending apocalypse long predicted for printed news, and I am hopeful the imminent demise is exaggerated.

But there is one big paradox that is worth pointing out:

For many years, our quality printed news sources (The Times, The WSJ, The Economist and many, many others) have confused tradition with staying power.

Tradition is core to their brands, and maintaining journalistic quality has long been a pre-eminent goal of these companies, as it should be. But for too long, the proprietors and executives who have run these companies have allowed tradition to cloud their vision in looking forward. In many cases, business planning for the coming year was not much more than applying a percentage increase (in advertising rates, in circulation base, in readership) to the prior year performance, and holding a team accountable to achieving those results.

That model is forever broken, I am afraid. Craigslist, Ebay, Yahoo! News, The Daily Show and SMS news alerts are barricades to the future ever being as simple as the past for newspapers and newspapermen. It may be that 2009 is the year that this truth finally becomes self-evident for the industry. It has clearly dawned on a few of the more forward-thinking proprietors. And it long ago was clear to investors, who have driven stock prices for newspaper companies to historic lows.

Recognition by the industry of this situation would be a good thing. The sooner it becomes clear, the more rapidly those companies may be able to focus on new products and new ways of reaching and engaging an audience that is as hungry for news today as it ever has been.

Just not news on the printed page.

TechCrunch Comment

27 Jun

Not everyday you get commented on in TechCrunch (albeit, comment #92 – not exactly right at the top) : www.techcrunch.com/2008/06/19/tracking-former-yahoo-execs-so-many-have-left/#comment-2384187

Actually, this comment was a few days before the recent Yahoo! reorg…No doubt, Yahoo! and Yahoos have been through a lot in the past several years. And in this industry, it would be ridiculous to assume the pace will slow down.