Yahoo (YHOO) needs to become the place where its users freely and happily store all kinds of information about themselves — from their finances to their travel plans to their health records.
Then Yahoo should use this information to show those users relevant brand advertising.
Or so argues angel investor Esther Dyson in a Huffington Post article titlted, “What Should Yahoo! Do?”
Ester writes “Now that Yahoo! has freed itself from its fight with Google, it can return to its roots as a directory company that helped users make sense of the world around them.” She says Internet users are already beginning to show they’re willing to share all kinds of information online:
“There’s a diffuse but gradually sharpening trend for people to manage their own information online — not just their finances at Mint or Wesabe, but also their book preferences at Amazon, mobile phone records (Skydeck), physical activities (Nike, Garmin, and the like), friendships and friends’ activities (Facebook/Friendfeed and others), travel (Dopplr and TripIt), health (Polka.com, Microsoft Health Vault), music (iTunes and all the wannabes) and so forth. iLike was another such company, but it’s no longer available (good move, MySpace!).”
Esther says Yahoo must “now either buy or build” a similar “variety of services that help users manage their own data.” She argues Yahoo won’t get in trouble picking ads for users based on this information for two reason.
- Users will be glad to get deals on products they’re interested in.
- Unlike many third-party ad networks which also target users based on private information, “Yahoo!’s edge is that it can show this information without embarrassment. It shows ads from third parties to its users, but it does not sell user data to outsiders.”
We imagine many Yahoos will appreciate Esther’s vision for the company. It would keep the place feeling like a tech outfit in a way that AOL — which has embraced its Web publishing future — no longer really does. And that’s important to people in Silicon Valley.
But will Yahoo’s mainstream users really bother to input all their information — from the highly sensitive to the superficial? We doubt it. Some of them can’t even be bothered to pick their favourite widgets on the new Yahoo.com homepage. The problem is, beyond email and instant messaging, people do not view Yahoo.com as a tool. It’s a content and entertainment site.
So yes, Yahoo should ask its users for their preferences — content preferences — and leave the health records and mortage details out of it. For its new, new homepage (we hope there is one coming), Yahoo needs to ask its users what their favourite kinds of video, music, casual games and news stories are — and then serve it back to them all on one place: Yahoo.com.
Do that well, and the loyal audience will sell the ads themselves.
NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.