Since Marissa Mayer took over as chief executive at Yahoo, it's acquired a whole heap of businesses (largely in the social and mobile space), started creating more of its own content and launched a new, less cluttered homepage in early 2013. And, after a bit of wait, New Zealand consumers and advertisers will get the benefit of that development with the rollout of the 'new' homepage in June.
Mayer had a big hand in the streamlining of Google's homepage, so one of her goals was to do the same for Yahoo, both for consumers and advertisers. And the general consensus is that she's been successful in doing that. For the reader, the homepage curates content from the Yahoo New Zealand network, which launched in this market seven years ago, has an editorial team of around 20 and has licensing deals with a range of content providers, and aims to deliver the best experience suited for the device across desktop, mobile and tablet screens.
- Check out Mayer's description of the changes here.
The new homepage features a fair degree of personalisation and, much like music streaming services, users have the ability to like or dislike content so its algorithm learns to show more relevant content for each user. There's also trending articles and more space for the most popular sections like weather, finance and horoscopes to breathe.
After the last major homepage redesign in 2012, which was a project by Yahoo! New Zealand and Yahoo!7 in Australia, there was talk of its length. But as mobile devices have become more prevalent, scrolling isn't such a dirty word so, like the recent LA Times redesign, this is even longer and features (virtually) infinite scrolling.
For advertisers, it offers a simplified process where one ad-buy delivers campaigns across any device. And with the guidance of the global IAB body, Yahoo has decreased the number of ad units on offer (the global estimates are from over 100 to around 20, although that's not specific to this market).
"One of the key thoughts behind the new homepage is to make it as clean and uncluttered as possible," says Louis Niven, Yahoo New Zealand's general manager sales. "For the advertiser this means brands can stand out with impactful, high quality executions. The trade off to this is we’ve consolidated the overall number of ad positions and executions, keeping the best performing ad units and adding some new options that are going to be really impactful."
But as banner blindness continues, Yahoo's new homepage has continued to bring ad content closer to editorial in the form of Stream ads, which abide by a similar philosophy to sponsored posts on Facebook or Twitter. And overseas, the click-through and conversion results from these native units have been much more impressive than traditional banners, especially as mobile viewing increases.
In fact, in a story in Digiday, Yahoo said it was planning to completely switch from mobile banner ads towards this native format by the end of the year.
The effectiveness of banner ads has long been a point of contention in the ad industry, and the debate has only heightened as consumption has transitioned from desktops to smartphones. Reports concluding that consumers find mobile ads more interruptive than TV ads and that mobile banner clicks are mostly due to finger misfires — as opposed to purchase intent — have convinced publishers that there simply isn’t enough room on smartphones to serve display ads that don’t ruin the user experience.
A story in Mumbrella said Yahoo is "also making a move towards endorsing viewability as a metric, with ads not displaying on the front page until 50 percent of the frame is visible using technology called Safe Frames. This follows on from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) in the US endorsing viewability as a metric following complaints from agencies their ads were not being seen despite being served and paid for".
Niven says around 1.8 million Kiwis visit the site on desktop, mobile and tablet every month, with more than 915,000 tuning in via mobile alone, so the new homepage plays to the strengths of these different devices.
"Along with sophisticated personalisation functionality, the new homepage delivers an enhanced mobile and tablet experience which has been proved in other Yahoo markets to driver greater user engagement with people spending longer and coming more often to the new homepage," says Niven.
The New York Times Innovation report, which was leaked recently, showed that visits to its homepage had been steadily declining as traffic came from other sources. Visits to the Yahoo New Zealand homepage have also been declining and, unlike some of the other outposts, this market is more dependent on visitors who use Yahoo's email service (that service, which is used by Telecom, has had plenty of negative press in recent years as a result of a whole host of security issues, but Yahoo has recently moved to an encrypted SSL system to fix that). But he's confident the roll-out of the new homepage will increase engagement and Mayer's hiring of news figureheads like Katie Couric shows Yahoo is aiming to do the same by diversifying into creating its own content.
As well as the new advertising opportunities on the homepage, opportunities on Yahoo-owned Tumblr will also be available in New Zealand soon (The Pepsi Party House, which aims to appeal to the 14-18 year old market by making use of a series of youth ambassadors, is currently using the platform in conjunction with the Yahoo New Zealand homepage).