Could Consumer Data Save Yahoo?

The conventional wisdom on Yahoo is it’s dead in the water. The rap on the company is long, starting with poor management and stretching to a dearth of breakout products. But one thing it does still have is a large audience — and a huge store of consumer data.

According to Lauren Weinberg, Yahoo’s vp of B2B research and insights, getting a handle on consumer data is vital for any company, and getting that crucial data to brands is one way Yahoo is providing value to advertisers.

“Brands are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of their consumers’ behavior online, including —what sites they visit, how they navigate the Web, what articles they read, what they search for, along with an overall sense of what consumers care about,” said Weinberg.
Weinberg believes one of Yahoo’s key attractions to brands is its research into its sizable homepage audience and its ability to target content to various in-demand segments. Yahoo is often derided in Silicon Valley for its declining engineering firepower, but it still boasts impressive data-crunching ability for advertising.
“On the science side, there remains a tremendous amount of exciting work to do,” said Liz Lufkin, Yahoo’s vp of front page programming in an earlier interview. “We’re working on adding other data into the algorithms, like social signals. We’re exploring ways to optimize for more than just click throughs, with the goal of maximizing metrics such as revenue, user engagement and long-term loyalty.”
That said, although Yahoo’s homepage is the world’s most visited, the company must lure advertisers with more than just a large audience and insights.
“Most people make money pointing to content, not creating, curating or collecting content,” said Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy and innovation officer at Vivaki, per WSJ.
Yahoo is now highlighting its research and data-mining services for brands, with the hopes that it can draw advertisers onto its display platform.
“By understanding what matters most to their target consumers online, they can deliver more relevant content, be part of conversations that matter most to brands and create content experiences that will be meaningful for their customers,” said Weinberg. “A prime example of this is a recent study we fielded through our consumer panel for a financial brand seeking to understand what role females are playing in making decisions around financial services. The results helped shape the brands upcoming campaign strategy since we were able to confirm a hunch they were having about their core demographic target.”
Macquarie analyst Ben Schacter stated in a recent research note that, despite the company’s homepage popularity, Yahoo’s ad sales for the space were sluggish.
Although Weinberg insists that as brands begin to grasp the importance of data-driven advertising and integrate insights into creative, targeted content will be viewed as more valuable, she concedes that the ecosystem has to develop further.
“We’re not yet in a world where data is fueling creative decisions for online advertisers,” said Weinberg. “Mostly due to time constraints, we are still in the process of building and then learning.”

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