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Yahoo is looking to make its news app more engaging — with the introduction of new community features — as it seeks to “elevate the voice of the community from personalized news discovery to participation in the conversation.” Instead of cycling through the news, Yahoo’s app now includes commenting, personalized “vibes,” and topics you can follow, which is very reminiscent of Flipboard.
Oh, and the Yahoo app has been rebranded to Yahoo Newsroom.
“Connecting with others who share your passion for social issues, favorite sports teams, celebrity gossip, or having a healthy debate about politics is often a fragmented experience,” explained Simon Khalaf, Yahoo’s senior vice president. “Most people switch between passively discovering news from their friends and reading hard-hitting news without any interaction.”
With more than 300 million people visiting Yahoo’s web and mobile app monthly, the company felt it was time to make itself more engaging. Yahoo Newsroom, which is available today, signals the company’s “most aggressive push yet” into community-powered media. The app is focused on two areas: curation and contribution. Through curation, users will find content tailored to them by Yahoo’s algorithm. They will also be able to find and follow other topics, which are called “vibes.” The more of these “vibes” you follow and engage with, the better the app’s algorithm becomes at tailoring content to your interests.
In the new Yahoo Newsroom, users will find a “need to know” section on the homescreen that will feature stories curated by Yahoo’s editors. Below that will be news items reflective of your current interests. There’s another section where you can explore more “vibes” to further customize your experience.
This seems like something you might find within Yahoo News Digest, a separate app built off of technology from the company’s Summly acquisition. But Khalaf explained that the Digest app has a different value proposition, in that it offers a condensed view of the day, while Yahoo Newsroom is “the better platform for extending the community conversation element, because there’s a broader pool of content not only from Yahoo, but the web.” He said that Yahoo News Digest is still available, though it hasn’t been updated since 2015.
The other update to Yahoo Newsroom is around contribution. According to Khalaf, Yahoo is aware that its audience is broken up into smaller communities that are passionate about specific topics, such as the U.S. elections, European migrant crisis, the Golden State Warriors, and more. “When someone is interested or passionate about a topic, they stick with it, they go deep and debate ad nausuem,” he said.
Additionally, people on Yahoo Newsroom establish long-lasting relationships with others, and they want to talk about topics with these fellow users, even though they may not agree with one another. This is what led the company to add community features to facilitate discussion and reactions. Users can not only comment on stories, as with other Yahoo properties, they can also “heart” the post and re-share it to one of their “vibes” with their own commentary — think Facebook, or even flipping a story into a Flipboard magazine.
“We’re moving from a one-way broadcast model to adding community elements and conversations that happen around the topic,” said Dave Bottoms, vice president of product management for global homepages and Yahoo media experiences.
While the company considers this update significant, aesthetically not much has changed. Bottoms shared that Yahoo wanted to make sure existing users felt comfortable with this updated app, which is why several elements have been carried over, such as the card design and the “need to know” section. New users will be shown callouts during the onboard process, and Yahoo will make every effort to ease in the new features without alienating anyone.
“But this is only the beginning” for Yahoo Newsroom, Khalaf proclaimed, sharing that additions are coming soon.
The launch of Yahoo Newsroom follows the company’s move in January to focus on personalized news and content. At the time, Khalaf said “people consume in one place, but talk about it in another place,” hinting about Yahoo’s strategy to combine consumption and conversation. Well, that time has come, and this refreshed app brings desktop and mobile on par with one another.
Bringing in community and curation features is a good move for Yahoo, although some might see the similarities to Flipboard’s model (minus the flipping mechanism, of course). Khalaf dismissed the comparison, saying that Yahoo is more focused on elevating the value of the community and that Yahoo Newsroom is geared toward people’s shared passions and interests. Additionally, people can pick and choose the communities that they want to participate in.
How Yahoo plans on handling safety, harassment, and privacy remains to be seen — not much information has been revealed about this, but it’s likely Yahoo’s expertise with other social products will come in handy.
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