Yahoo Finance Looks For Its Voice

During all of the recent turmoil and uncertainty surrounding Yahoo, defenders of the company like to point out its under-appreciated strengths: Yahoo’s content sites are ranked number one by ComScore in nine or 10 categories, depending on the given month. Yahoo Finance in particular has been as steady and as dominant as it gets in online media. The site has led the business and finance category for over four years — a remarkable 45 months and counting. And its lead is usually by a vast margin — twice as many uniques on average.

Yet the property has been under the radar compared to siblings like Yahoo News, which has attempted to build a more distinctive voice with properties like The Cutline and Yahoo Sports, which has become the company’s shining star for its original content, including massive scoops like the recent University of Miami football scandal. The knock on Yahoo Finance, if there is one, is that it’s such a stock-quote-generating utility that its engagement is low. But the site has surprising strength in video. Chris Hunter, senior director of Yahoo Finance, talked to Digiday about some recent changes at the site and its plans for the future.
Yahoo Finance is huge, but it almost seems to be under-appreciated. How of that is because of Yahoo’s outside noise? How much of that is driven by the perception that the site is viewed as being low on engagement and all about traders looking up stock quotes all day?
A lot of times people do get distracted by macro noise, and we haven’t been as aggressive as we could be in telling our story. Yahoo Finance is quite a machine. Pretty much everybody in the space we compete with, we are also partners with. As for the engagement question, I think there is some truth to that. We’re trying to embrace change. People are spending a lot of time on the site, and we do a great job aggregating, but until 18 months or so ago, it was largely a wire-driven feed that told the stories. In our edit and programming team, we are trying to diversify so it’s not an AP feed. We’ve recently undertaken some design changes that will be part of an ongoing evolution of the site. We’re trying to use visuals, use more video. We now have much more of an engaging presentation instead of just streams of data and “here’s the market” news.
Does that mean we’ll see an evolution that mirrors Yahoo Sports?
I think there’s a spectrum. Yahoo Sports has invested so much in the content side. Then there’s where a lot of the of the other properties are in terms of focusing more on aggregation. I don’t know if we’ll go as far down the line. We’ve got an opportunity to add more voice. We’ve got it with our “Daily Ticker” (formerly “Tech Ticker”) as well as our newer shows like Breakout with Aaron Task [and former CNBCers Jeff Macke and Matt Nesto]. One thing we’ll do better and more of is connect Yahoo News and Finance. Those voices will be similar, and you’ll see more sharing of content. For example, with the upcoming presidential election, the economy is going to drive so much of the conversation that you’ll see Finance content on Yahoo News. I think with Finance, we want to help educate and bring more content. We are producing quite a lot of content series along those lines. As for breaking news and competing with the Wall Street Journals and Bloombergs of the world [like Yahoo Sports does], that’s maybe a long-term vision.
It sounds like even more than other properties, video is at the center of your voice strategy. Why is that? And have you found your audience receptive to appointment TV on the Web?
Video is a way to create voice by bringing in guests, experts. We’ll continue to build in our studio approach. Yahoo has 10 of the top 10 shows on ComScore, and “Daily Ticker” [which features Business Insider’s Henry Blodget]. That audience is largely organic and niche, but it consistently delivers. It’s got a bigger consistent audience than any of the CNBC shows — 3.6 million a day. “Breakout” reaches about a million users, and that just launched this year. Both shows have a really strong voice. We’re also consistently trying to get our video talent on TV. Aaron Task of “Breakout” is often on CNBC and Fox Business. One thing we haven’t done yet is take on an active syndication approach. That’s something we’re considering, depending on deals. We’ve invested a lot of resources in our show. The next evolvment of that is, “how do we get them out there more?” We are also working on some new shows. We have some ideas out to the ad market. I wouldn’t go as far a saying it’s appointment viewing just yet, but it’s consistent.
Given your size, and clout, and video success, is Yahoo Finance getting the ad dollars it deserves yet?
I argue it largely is, especially from the endemic guys. The big brokerages, owners of the space like Fidelity, Scottrade, Merrill Edge, eTrade, etc., we have really deep relationships with them. Video has been sold well from the beginning. But there are definitely opportunities on the non-endemic side with automotive, pharma, other categories where we could do more.
You talked about getting more of your talent on CNBC and Fox Business. Could we ever see Yahoo Finance programming on TV?
I think the quality is there. It would be great to expand there. The company’s deal with ABC News could open other opportunities. We have nothing to announce yet, but it’s certainly a possibility.

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