News & Views

Cannes Lions / Debrief / Yahoo! On Content

by Contagious Team

Web portal outlines web content- and summarisation-led future, and the role of brands

Hollywood star Jack Black joined Yahoo!'s head of video Erin McPherson on stage today at the Cannes Lions festival as she explained to attendees how 'critical' video is to the company's mission, and the importance of brands' contribution in the space. 

With the explosion of video consumption online, and people choosing to watch content on their mobiles, McPherson said the web giant was continuing to invest in web programming. That included 50 original shows, one of which would be animated series Ghost Ghirls, forthcoming from Black's own web production company Electric Dynamite. Yahoo! announced earlier this year that it was purchasing the entire back catalogue of Saturday Night Live, reaching back as far as 1975. 

Brands were key innovators in the online content space, continued McPherson, but were all too often risk averse. She cautioned that brands needed to temper the needs of spreading their message with that of entertaining watchers. The advantage of online content, McPherson explained, was that Yahoo! is able to experiment, listen and learn from watchers, and use that data to optimise that to best serve watchers. 

Yahoo!'s move mirrors that of competitors in the content distribution game, notably Netflix and Amazon, to become commissioners of original content. The giant has faltered over the past few years, struggling to counter the explosive rise of Google. Yahoo! hired former employee Marissa Mayer as CEO to help turn around the company's fortunes. Mayer has bet heavily on the visual and content web as the way forward to boosting impressions and revenues for the company. Yahoo! bought image blogging site Tumblr for $1.1bn to ride the explosion of visual culture. 

Although Black had little in the way of ground-breaking insight into the principles and processes relating to producing online content, he nonetheless kept the Monday morning audience entertained throughout. At one point Black received the biggest cheer of the day's sessions when pointing out that the surest way to kill a good creative idea was to subject it to market research. 

Joining Black and McPherson on stage was 18-year-old Nick D'Aloisio, founder of content summarisation company Summly (profiled in Contagious' Small But Perfectly Formed section back in issue 30), which Yahoo! recently acquired for a reported $30m. 

In a world where 'time is the new currency,' said D'Aloisio, summarisation technology is highly prized. D'Aloisio also stressed the importance of personalisation in this time-starved age, saying that faced with a growing amount of content, 'a web ordered for you', delivered in easy to digest highlights, would be the future.