Ever since Yahoo! News started putting together an all-star team of journalists earlier this year, we’ve been curious about its plans.For the first time, Yahoo! News actually has full-time beat writers—six of them, including high-profile bylines like John Cook (formerly of Gawker), Michael Calderone (formerly of Politico) and Holly Bailey (formerly of Newsweek). And they’ve already unearthed some big scoops, like Cook’s recent piece about revelations that Walter Cronkite may have aided anti-Vietnam War activists in the 1960s.
The blog his team has been producing for the past few months, “The Newsroom,” is in a soft-launch phase—a dull-looking reverse crawl of headlines, with limited photos and no RSS feed or bylines. (Although the writers do get author credits at the end of each item.)
But Golis, whose official title is editor of blogging for Yahoo! News, spoke with us about where the blog is headed once it officially launches mid-summer.
“At first, it won’t be anything that in form explodes people’s brains, but in substance and quality will,” he said.
Golis wouldn’t offer too many specifics (and Yahoo insisted that a flack be present for the interview), but he said The Newsroom would soon get a different name (to be determined) and that “there will be more staff” added within the year.
“Eventually, the model is to grow into a network of blogs similar to what you see with Yahoo! Sports. There may be a specific politics blog, a specific business news blog, Michael may have his own media news blog,” he said.
Here are a few stats:
- Yahoo’s revenues were around $1.6 billion in 1Q 2010, a 1% increase from 1Q 2009.
- Yahoo’s display advertising grew 20% in 1Q 2010 over 1Q 2009.
- Yahoo! News is the No. 1 news site in the U.S. and its web traffic is increasing: 46,314,000 unique viewers in April 2010 versus 45,679,000 in April 2009, according to comScore.
- Golis said The Newsroom had 57 million total page views in April, during most of which only one of its bloggers had started writing.
- The Cronkite story, which was published on May 14, got about 1,000 comments and a million page views in a matter of days, Golis estimated.
“It’s like doing a startup, except we’ve already got the biggest news audience in the country,” Golis said. “It’s a startup without all the stress … We have all sorts of resources, and the people at Yahoo are already brilliant at making money off the site.”
Golis said the basic strategy for Yahoo! News was to take advantage of Yahoo.com’s existing audience of around half a billion people.
“The strategy is to figure out Yahoo’s audience as best we can, to get quality information in front of them as often as possible and break stories that it would not have ocurred to them to ask for,” he said.
He said they’d also take advantage of Yahoo.com’s search data. For instance, if the news team saw that Yahoo.com’s audience was searching for information about a complex topic like the public option or Obama’s nuclear summit, it could produce relevant pieces.
“It doesn’t become our editorial director, but we can get that kind of data and do pieces that we know will resonate,” he said.
As for the business plan, Mark Walker, vice president of Yahoo! News, said: “We’re lucky because we’re working against a general base of being able to successfully monetise news content through display advertising. We’ll build on that base as Yahoo! News becomes a separate news brand that in itself will create its own monetization opportunities.”
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