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?

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