Why Yahoo should acquire the BusinessInsider

Read the two headlines below and ask yourself which one am I most likely to click on:

  • “The face of Obamacare speaks”
  • “Smiling Woman On Obamacare Website Says She’s Been Relentlessly Cyberbullied”

The first headline is from Yahoo’s homepage:

The second headline is from the Business Insider:

Yahoo and BusinessInsider are covering the same story. But BusinessInsider’s headline makes the story sound much more interesting. The visual accompanying the story is large and clear. Yahoo’s presentation is cluttered with weird screenshot angles and a text overlay that makes it less likely for a user to read the headline.

Yahoo tries to redesign its homepage every year. It has many, many PhDs on its payroll crunching out numbers and algorithms to optimize the homepage. The only problem? The homepage is still full of content that is uninspiring and disengaging, especially when compared to the standards set by HuffingtonPost, BuzzFeed and BusinessInsider.

It makes you wonder how companies in the last decade have built entire businesses on top of engaging news while Yahoo, after decades and throwing many times more resources, still has a cluttered homepage with boring headlines. After all, Yahoo’s entire mission with the homepage is to personalize it to your taste. Then, shouldn’t the Yahoo product based upon personalization completely destroy competitors with no such goal? A look at the Yahoo homepage should have news items that are much more relavant to my taste than BI or the HuffPo. And yet, it doesn’t.

This leads me to conclude that Yahoo’s mission with the homepage is deeply flawed. It is working too hard in trying to personalize content. But the problem with the Yahoo homepage is that even after they correctly determine the news stories you would like, the actual headline and presentation of those stories are of very low quality.

On the other hand, the HuffPo and BusinessInsider have much more engaging homepages with no attempts to try and personalize it for you. They have achieved that by methodically rewriting headlines in a manner that baits people into becoming interested in stories they may have never been into. They have internal tools that assist editors in coming up with engaging headlines and pictures for each story. Most importantly, HuffPo and the BI are entirely focused on presenting the most intriguing parts of any story and less on figuring out what types of stories you’d like to see.

Both Yahoo and the BusinessInsider are focused on writing algorithms to engage users with news stories. The difference is that BI’s algorithms focus on turning any story into an engaging one while Yahoo is mistakenly focused on finding the right stories. The BI is seeing insane growth, from 5M uniques last year to over 30M this year. Meanwhile, the Yahoo homepage is stuck in a vicious redesign cycle yielding no results.

Yahoo needs to move away from trying to personalize news and focus more on optimizing each news story. What better way to do that than acquiring a news site that has methodically scaled itself from a tiny blog to tens of millions of uniques?

By: Jorge Jaramillo

Facebook’s shiny object non-problem

Facebook’s CFO David Ebersman revealed during the last earnings call that there is a noticeable exodus of kids from facebook. Why are kids leaving facebook? What does facebook need to do about it?

When I started school, facebook was the shiny thing. Almost a decade later, its shiny creds have been passed onto the likes of Instagram, WhatsApp, SnapChat etc. Whereas my generation only got introduced to facebook in college, today’s kids are joining facebook as young as 10 years old. By the time they turn 18, you cannot expect them to see facebook with the same passion and excitement as when they first joined.

To facebook’s credit, it hasn’t built its business on being a shiny object. Facebook has serious lock-in that goes far beyond the often-cited network effect. Facebook’s real lock-in is its success in becoming the digital archive of the lives of hundreds of millions of its users. Facebook is no longer just a communication tool; facebook is what you’ve been up to in your life all through high school and college. And while the ebbs and flow of life may push its users to deactivate their facebook account, they are far from permanently  leaving facebook because permanently leaving facebook is akin to burning your decade worth of photos, letters and diary entries.

No one is burning their facebook accounts. They’re merely locking themselves out of it…until they are bored with the new shiny object that was supposed to kill facebook. That’s when they hop right back onto facebook.

So what should facebook do about not being the shiny thing any longer? I don’t think it needs to do much! In my casual conversations with younger cousins, they talk often about deactiving or no longer logging onto facebook. But very few if any actually delete their accounts. And as long as people aren’t deleting their accounts, facebook has nothing to worry about.

By: thebarrowboy

Guarded patience

Ethics 101 was my favorite class in my first semester in college. It was also the most annoying class. Why? Because unlike the readings in my other classes which could be merely skimmed over, I learned that you cannot skim over a philosophy reading and expect to be prepared for class. I found myself in deep thought after every few sentences of my reading and I found myself walking to class with a lot more questions than answers.

A lot of building a successful enterprise is about finding answers to questions–and quickly. I like to call this brute-forcing. Have a problem with your sales strategy? You can brute-force your way to having it reviewed by advisers and get near instant feedback that you can put to use.

But what about figuring out where you are going to be in six months as a company? If you are running a public company, that should be largely predictable. But if you’re a year old business, a lot may be up in the air. In that case, the initial question will raise an endless stream of questions. Ultimately, you end up with more questions than answers and you feel like you’ve just taken on a philosophical question that has no signs of an answer.

The ability to handle these questions ends up defining your company. You can easily let the lack of answers or the lack of clarity bog you down and paralyze your team. You can also try to brute-force your way to an answer via a marathon session…and get even more annoyed when you don’t find the answer. Or you can show a little bit of what I call guarded patience and let the answer come to you.

What’s guarded patience and how is it different from just being patient? When you are simply patient about something, you risk becoming complacent. Guarded patience means to maintain awareness of what you do have answers to, use those answers to push forward until you arrive at some big revelation that answers your original question.

When you’re brute-forcing, you’re on a mission to find the solution. When you use guarded patience, you’re letting the solution find you. You do this by applying a lot less pressure on yourself to find the answer. At the same time, you’re wide awake so when the answer does come to you, you’re not going to miss it.