Yahoo! Tech: A good start but editorial challenges remain
In it’s first new content module in five years, Yahoo! Tech (tech.yahoo.com) represents Yahoo!s vision of how many pieces of its vast network of content and services will work together. In many ways, Yahoo! Tech is a great glimpse into Yahoo!’s future strategy.
The goal of Tech is to create a more “mainstream” approach to technology, and at the same time, to tap into the lucrative technology advertising space. To date, the biggest site for consumer technology is CNET.com, which provides not only technology reviews, but also excellent news coverage. Yahoo! positioned itself as being more accessible and easier to use, primarily because the content pushes decision-making tools and content to the front, while also incorporating more “people” into the experience. Yahoo! also has the significant advantage over CNET of turning on the traffic spigot simply by adding links to its home page.
So I took a quick side-by-side test drive of computer monitor content on both Yahoo! and CNET for a comparison to see if it really WAS easier to use. Why monitors? Because digital cameras as an example is overused, and also because I know almost NOTHING about monitors! I’m also in the market to buy a new monitor for my kids’ computer, so I figured, kill a couple birds at the same time.
Yahoo! Tech’s monitor section has right off the back an area called “Basics” that explains some key things to know about monitors, such as the difference between LCD and CRT. It then had a selection of the top rated monitors, which I found very helpful. These are based on consumer reviews of the product, drawn from Yahoo! Shopping. Clicking into the product section, I could see all of the monitors.
Now here’s where I think Yahoo! does a great job – on the left hand side, I can adjust a “slide” to narrow prices down. I don’t want to spend more than $250 on a monitor but I want it to be big. It quickly narrows my choices down to 76 products, all without having to refresh the page. I could then sort those selections on “top results”, which is based on consumer reviews. Unfortunately, there are only 1-2 reviews on each of the monitors, which makes it a bit suspect.
Back on the main monitor page, there are also buying guides from the “Dummies” series, as well as some interesting articles on how to adjust your monitor or keep Windows from shutting it down. But my favorite was pulled from Q&A section, which comes from Yahoo! Answers – the Q&A selections rotate through, but the one I saw was spot on, recommending that unless you were a serious gamer to ignore the refresh rates.
Now on to CNET. I really liked the ability to narrow down the criteria based on price, manufacturer, or other criteria. But this presumed that I actually knew anything about the monitors, which I don’t. I’m interested in getting a 19-21” monitor and that wasn’t one of the options. Further down, there were some articles on monitors, which frankly, were irrelevant (I didn’t really care what monitors look like from behind!).
But the strength of CNET is its strong editorial reviews, as well as a huge community of committed consumer reviewers. On the monitor page there is a list of monitors garnering top editorial reviews, and a similar list generated by consumer reviews. For example, the top consumer rated monitor is the Dell UltraSharp, which had an average score of 9.3 from 106 users.
So which is “better”? Yahoo! was easier to use initially, as it gave me a great starting point to learn more about monitors. I would return to it again and again for basic information. But for detailed reviews on products I’m planning to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on, I’m going to rely on CNET’s deep editorial content, both from its editors as well as its users. Granted, Yahoo! Tech does have excellent reviews of products from Consumer Reports, but not in all categories.
This is going to be a content challenge for Yahoo! Tech, as it is built primarily from content drawn from other parts of Yahoo!. In order to be competitive in this space, it had to pull content from other areas to kick-start the product. And it’s done it well, especially because Yahoo! could tap into Shopping and Answers for content. It will get richer with the addition of content from the “Advisors” four (soon to be five) people who will blog 3-5 times a day about technology from different viewpoints.
A bigger challenge that I foresee for Yahoo! Tech is the need to go beyond simply gadgets buying and provide a deeper resource for technology on par with what Yahoo! Finance and News have done in their respective categories. I can easily see a technology news sub-section drawn from Yahoo News put on Yahoo Tech, but it will detract from its current mainstream approach.
But even tougher will be Yahoo! Tech’s ability to review products and services that Yahoo! offers, such as Yahoo! Mail. CNET has a review of Yahoo! Mail, as well as several other services offered by Yahoo! and its competitors. To what extent will Yahoo! be able to advice and information on such services when it provides them as well? Yahoo! Tech manager Patrick Houston (who was formerly the editor in chief of CNET.com) said that in the past, his editorial teams were able to cover CNET’s quarterly earnings objectively. But I think it’s one thing to report on the facts of a financial report and quite another to host and encourage reviews of some of your and your competitor’s key products.
To be really a good tech resource, I think this is where Yahoo! needs to go, but unfortunately, because there are few advertising dollars associated with online services, and also because of competitive reasons, I don’t believe that this will be the case. This leaves a significant opportunity for CNET.com to retain its leadership position in the technology content space.