The Internet tailored for you by Yahoo

By Stephen Rhodes

CEO Carol Bartz wants to make Yahoo a shiny new penny again. In a recent interview she tells  Esquire “Yahoo has been here for fifteen years. We are the Internet.  Unfortunately, we sit in a paradigm that values the new shiny penny.”

Yahoo has lost much lustre over the last five years to some significant shiny new pennies.

The approach? Tailored content.

“Tomorrow’s Yahoo is going to be really tailored. I’m not talking about organization — organizing means that you already know what you want and somebody’s just putting it in shape for you. I’m talking about both smart science and people culling through masses of information on the fly and figuring out what people want to know.”

“If you’re a sports fan but have no interest in tennis, we won’t show you tennis. We would know that you do things in a certain sequence, so we’d say, ‘Here’s your portfolio. Here’s some news you might like. Oh, you went to this movie last week, here’s some other movies you might want to check out.’

Bartz calls it Internet of One. “I want it to be mine, and I don’t want to work too hard to get what I need. In a way, I want it to be HAL. I want it to learn about me, to be me, and cull through the massive amount of information that’s out there to find exactly what I want.”

She says in three years Yahoo will be the shiny new penny.

That, of course, presumes everyone else is standing still. The idea of tailored content isn’t new. I subscribe to a number of blogs based on content I want to read, all tailored to my interests.  When I am on Amazon.ca , they search my past purchases and offer me what they believe are complimentary selections. Sometimes they are dead wrong. On my Blackberry I can select the sports I want to follow through a little app called SportsMobile. And iPhone has thousands of apps that allow you to fine tune content.

And then there is the privacy issue related to data mining. Kids seem less concerned today about leaving an online footprint. But there is pushback and Facebook is a recent example. As personalized content unfolds, as it must, there undoubtedly will be more debate around what we are willing to share with the rest of the world, and perhaps equally important how companies like Yahoo and Facebook use that information to strengthen their brands.

Read the Esquire interview with Carol Bartz.

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