When Yahoo announced last week that it was acquiring popular blog site Tumblr for $1.1 billion, it raised a big question: Is Yahoo a technology company or a content company?
Honestly, there is still no easy answer. And if the answer is “Both,” it is not a convincing one. Yahoo, once a star, lost both the search and Web mail crown to Google and remains an iffy site for the other two. As a key creator of display advertising technology for Web pages, it is facing a challenge from Google’s DoubleClick.
Under its high-profile, former Google techie CEO, Marissa Mayer, one would have thought it to go further into the technology domain but the main news flow this year is on content.
In March, Yahoo acquired mobile news aggregator Summly which sorts news by topics in quick bites for smartphones. Now that was a sort of a technology play, somewhat like what Google’s News section site does, but had a strong content flavour.
Tumblr has 300 million users — and is favoured by a “young,cool” crowd that Yahoo wants to add to its 700 million users who visit Yahoo sections like Finance and Sports.
Now comes the news that Yahoo is trying to acquire online video site Hulu — even as Google is boosting YouTube not as a social video site but one with regular mainstream media content.
Years ago, Yahoo had acquired Associated Content and turned into a contributor network for Yahoo.
It seems like Yahoo and Google are fighting head-on. But Google is not investing in content, and is happy as an advertising and search partner for publishers. It is clearly a technology company thus far. Tumblr and Hulu are “platforms” in theory, but it is eyeballs that Mayer seems to be after.
What is Yahoo’s special identity as a content player in a world that has so many publishers? That is an uneasy question that Ms. Mayer will have to answer.