What Is Yahoo?

David Carr asks the same question I did when Marissa Mayer was introduced as the new CEO last week.

I’m going to take a whack at it and say that Yahoo is a media company, mostly by accident (more on that in a bit). Yes, its headquarters in Silicon Valley are filled with technologists and have the familiar trappings of a digital enterprise — foosball, anyone? — but for most Americans, Yahoo is where they get news.

In business, people will tell you that everything else is secondary to being first. And Yahoo, despite its tattered reputation, is No. 1 in 10 content categories, according to the measurement service comScore, including news, finance, sports, entertainment and real estate. Yahoo reaches more than 75 percent of the total Internet audience in the United States, with 167.2 million unique users in June. On any given day, 30 million or more people stop by. Globally, about 700 million people visit the site in 30 languages every month.

What they get, more often than not, is carefully selected and displayed commodity news drawn from a variety of sources, but they also can read smart proprietary reporting from one of the 300 journalists — that’s a huge newsroom these days — who work for Yahoo.

It’s not sexy, but that’s my general feeling as well. The real question is can Mayer leverage Yahoo!’s successful media empire into an even more successful media empire, while also building out and improving its portfolio of products like Flikr?

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