• Yahoo May Be Finally on to a Winning Original Video Strategy

    The NY Times is reporting that Yahoo is ramping up its original broadband video offerings, with the impending launch of "Spotlight to Nightlight," a new series showcasing celebrity moms, hosted by former Miss USA Ali Landry and sponsored by State Farm Insurance. The new show highlights how far Yahoo has evolved from its era of failed dreams of grandeur directed by former Yahoo Media Group head Lloyd Braun. Before you say, "ugh, its Yahoo, they'll never succeed with video," I'd suggest that their new plan has some merit.

    As we all know, Yahoo has suffered through all kinds of recent challenges and significant management turnover. But it is still one of the most popular online brands - the 2nd most-trafficked web site with over 146 million monthly unique visitors, the #3 search engine (now just behind YouTube) with a 21% market share and operator of the second-largest ad network behind Platform A.

    Despite these strengths, I've thought Yahoo has been somewhat unimpressive in the video area. It has focused heavily on aggregating and distributing others' content in a bland, mechanical manner though still managing to become a highly popular video streaming destination. I've sometimes wondered whether anyone really "owned" the video experience at Yahoo or whether it had been diffused over so many managers that it had been orphaned along the way. It's not been uncommon for me to see broken links, repetitious ads, 30 second pre-rolls adjacent to under 1 minute clips, and other annoyances that can quickly turn off users.

    In the midst of this confusion, a bright spot on the original video front has been "Primetime in No Time" a short, energetic TV recap show that has gained a sizable following plus other series in specific verticals like sports and finance. On the flip side, in a sign of the mixed internal signals, it also killed "The 9" a recap show of top online content, which had both a following and a sponsor in Pepsi.

    With "Spotlight to Nightlight" Yahoo seems to be further recognizing that it is sitting on mounds of data that, if properly analyzed, can reveal lots of clues about what kinds of programming would match up with its users' and advertisers' interests. Given Yahoo's size and resources, there are few online companies that should be better tuned in to what's hot and could be the strong basis for a new series.

    Yahoo's opportunity is to capitalize on this information by creating short, upbeat (and humorous where possible) series that appeal to users' demonstrated interests. It should then promote the shows like crazy in appropriate vertical areas of its site (as "Spotlight to Nightlight" will be with Yahoo's "OMG"), and adjacent to relevant searches.

    Recently I wrote about Demand Media, which has built a "content factory" by doing many of these same kinds of things. Yahoo could create a stable of inexpensively produced but high-quality broadband-only series that can instantly find their natural audiences. Advertisers looking for adjacency to premium video that aggregates sought-after audiences, would soon follow.

    New Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz has a lot of issues on her plate to resolve, but also plenty of opportunities. Video is a big one that has been largely untapped by the company. If Yahoo builds a cohesive video strategy that relies on the significant data it has unrestricted access to, it may finally be on a winning video path.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.