It’s time for the Phoenix to rise: Yahoo! in 2014

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Fourteen months ago, Yahoo! pulled off one of the best executed coups of in the tech industry. In the midst of great doubt and what some considered its death knell, Yahoo! flipped the script. And so like a phoenix the ailing tech giant began to rise from the ashes with the appointment of Marissa Mayer as CEO.

Yahoo!’s recent history has been something of a disappointment. The Sunnyvale company entertained a revolving door of CEOs and appeared to have stumbled into mediocrity, while Google flourished.

Things are changing.

In the last year there has been an intense focus on beauty, startups and mobile. The company has spent a significant amount of money on startups in the last 14 months. Mayer has plan, and it’s all mobile. The savvy CEO wants to get on the mobile freight rain and use it to usher in a new Yahoo!.

As we head into 2014 Yahoo!’s place in the tech ecosystem needs to more than a handful of mobile apps it needs to assert its usefulness to the users and rise as a competitor among its peers.

A media company always and forever

The power struggle the company has faced for years needs to end. Yahoo! must decide which it is, a tech company or a media company. Though the company has shown great tech aptitude in the last year it must realise that is in fact an online media company and a pretty good one at that. Yahoo!’s finance app is probably the best on the app store and provides excellent news and information around the stock market. So Ms Mayer, it’s time you ported that into a bigger scale, launch a news app that complements Yahoo!

Last year, Mayer argued that with “the web becoming so vast, there’s so much content and there’s so much social context, and now with mobile, there’s so much location context and activity context.”

“How do you pull all that together?” For Yahoo! this needs to be “a feed of information that is ordered. The web is ordered for you and is also on your mobile phone.”

Yahoo! News is already aggregating the world’s news. Trouble is, the current app does not work as a news app but a personalised page with news feeds. Yahoo!’s current app is cluttered and not very intuitive. After hiring Katie Couric, the company made it even more clear that the media and the business of news it important to it. Yahoo!’s news app need to be the news portal for all of the world’s news.

In Mayer’s own words:

“You should build a product that is really fast to learn so that the user can become an expert user really quickly. You have to use your product to understand what the users need and what their frustrations are.”

Launch Yahoo Africa

Yahoo! is one of the few tech companies of its scale that hasn’t seen value in having a presence in Africa. In the mid/late 2000s when the rest of the world decided that Google was the king of everything abandoning all other mail services for Gmail, a strong African population stuck it out with Yahoo!.

It’s time Yahoo! joined the rest of the world an explored Africa a bit more, not offices out of Dubai for just one country but an all-encompassing African Yahoo, with offices. The media and entertainment space in Africa is growing rapidly and with Yahoo!’s current media plays it could prove beneficial to be on ground.

Most of the major tech companies already have African operations and those that don’t have are seriously considering it. In 2014 Yahoo! should therefore look into Africa and think of ways its business or else it will continue to lag behind. If the phoenix is fully rise from its ashy grave this needs to happen soon.

Do some serious work with mail

Mail kinda sucks, let’s all admit that and move on. No matter how much Yahoo! tweaked and changed mail in the last year, something about its UI and efficiency still leaves much to be desired. Yahoo! needs to rethink its strategy with mail and how it can make it something the users will want to use.

It’s interface is backward thinking not forward thinking, but it doesn’t have to be. Its fellow mail dinosaur Hotmail’s new interface is quite impressive and shows user thinking in mind. Yahoo! needs to stop thinking about how many things it can fit on one page and think about what the users want.

Give up on search, sorta

There is a notion that Yahoo! should take over Bing from Microsoft. It might be good for Microsoft to finally move on from search, but can Yahoo! take this on? Yahoo! will not dominate search in the traditional way, by which I mean the Google way.

No one is ever going to say let’s Yahoo that, not anytime soon… maybe not ever. Yahoo! needs to think of search as something it does for its hardcore users, allowing them to search from the front-page with Yahoo information and as another way of accessing the web’s content. It simply can’t be a full-blown search engine again. Perhaps if Yahoo! does fully takeover Bing it needs to be retooled. Currently, I don’t Bing anything, do you?

Get that reputation sorted

In this business, reputation is everything. Hiring Mayer helped get the headlines and she is stilling getting them but now what? A little good PR goes a long way, Yahoo! has been in the news a lot lately because it keeps spending money. Yahoo! needs to start doing more interesting things, more kick-ass projects, and apps that people want to use and talk about. Time to put all those cash monies into things that audience cares about and get the bad rep sorted.

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