Yahoo News named a new editor-in-chief Monday who comes from The New York Times and promised a “major expansion” of news gathering at the US Internet giant.
Megan Liberman, deputy news editor of The New York Times, started on Monday, taking the position which has been vacant since Hillary Frey left earlier this year.
Liberman “will lead a major expansion of Yahoo News, bringing in new voices and defining features for the site,” the company said in a statement, noting that she would “focus primarily on original reporting, social news gathering, video and live events coverage.”
“Megan is a dynamic addition to the Yahoo News team,” said Robertson Barrett, vice president of Yahoo News and Finance.
“As deputy news editor at The New York Times she drove some of the most successful digital initiatives, from its blog network to Nate Silver’s multi-platform presence to live streamed coverage of the 2012 elections.
“She is a natural fit to lead editorial for the world’s largest news site, and she will help us take Yahoo News to the next level.”
At the Times, Liberman previously worked as deputy editor of the newspaper’s magazine, where she was responsible for digital features and strategy. She also directed the magazine’s political coverage, and launched the Times’s parenting blog, Motherlode.
Yahoo News is the most visited news website, according to the Web information site Alexa. The analytics website eBizMBA estimates it gets 110 million unique visitors monthly.
Yahoo has been undergoing major changes since former Google executive Marissa Mayer became boss early last year, notably acquiring 20 startups including the billion-dollar buy of blog platform Tumblr.
Yahoo received some 29,000 government requests for data on its users this year, with almost half coming from the United States, according to the company’s global transparency report released Friday.
Yahoo said in the report, covering the first six months of 2013, that 12,444 of the requests from worldwide governments came from the United States.
“At Yahoo, we take the privacy of our users seriously,” general counsel Ron Bell said in a blog post.
“We also recognize our role as a global company in promoting freedom of expression wherever we do business. That’s why we’re issuing our first global law enforcement transparency report.”
Bell said the government requests affected “less than one one-hundredth of one percent of our worldwide user base.”
He added that the report includes US “national security requests” which have become a major issue in light of reports on secret government surveillance programs run by the United States.
“Our legal department demands that government data requests be made through lawful means and for lawful purposes,” Bell said.
“We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful. In addition, we mounted a two-year legal challenge to the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and recently won a motion requiring the US government to consider further declassifying court documents from that case.”
For requests made in the United States, Yahoo said it provided some content in 37 percent of cases. In 55 percent it provided only “non-content data” such as names, location other subscriber information.
The company rejected two percent of requests and found no data in six percent.
The report comes with US tech companies under pressure following revelations of a secret program which scoops up vast amounts of data from Internet firms.
Tech firms including Yahoo have been seeking to release more information on government data requests, in the belief that this would reassure customers.
The Yahoo report follows the release of similar information from other tech firms including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter.
Yahoo said the numbers reported “include all types of government data requests such as criminal law enforcement requests and those under US national security authorities, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and National Security Letters (NSLs), if any were received.”
But it noted that the US government “does not permit us to disclose additional details regarding the number of requests.”
In addition to the United States, Yahoo listed requests from 16 other countries or territories including Australia, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Britain, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
The company said these are the countries where Yahoo has a legal entity that could be required to turn over data.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]
The federal government must determine what it can release publicly about the justification it gave to search company Yahoo in 2008 for the government’s broad wiretapping efforts, a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) ruled on Monday (PDF).
Judge Reggie B. Walton gave the government until July 29 to report back on when the court should expect disclosures to be made regarding the legal basis for programs like PRISM, which many scholars believe to be unconstitutional and unprecedented in its reach.
The government’s justification for even having a system that vacuums up virtually all of the electronic communications data on the planet has not been available for public scrutiny before, despite efforts by civil liberties groups to force it out into the open.
It’s not yet clear how much of the explanation will be released. In his ruling, Walton ordered a “declassification review” of its own opinion from April 25, 2008, along with the legal briefs submitted to the court by Yahoo and the government. “After such review, the Court anticipates publishing that Memorandum Opinion in a form that redacts any properly classified information,” he concluded.
Given the court’s penchant for secrecy, that could be a little bit of information or a lot. The 11-judge panel rarely refuses government surveillance requests and even once issued a ruling that forced Verizon, the nation’s largest mobile phone provider, to hand over metadata generated by all its users.
The court was able to do that because of the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which updated the court’s authority and dramatically expanded its power as part of a package of legislation initially opposed by then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), who ultimately voted in favor and called it a “compromise.”
Once Obama took the presidency, his administration expanded the Bush administration’s defense of the wiretapping programs even further, citing the Patriot Act as perpetual cover from lawsuits.
["Stock photo: A spy peers out from a laptop computer," via Shutterstock.]
(H/T: Washington Post)
Marissa Mayer, the former Googler who is now chief executive of Yahoo, is poised to create yet another nothing-to-riches tale in the web industry with a rumoured $1.1bn (£720m) acquisition of the blogging site Tumblr.
Mayer called Yahoo’s board together on Sunday afternoon to discuss the company’s latest attempt to regain the glamour it once held, and the word from Sunnyvale, California is that the board has given its approval. Tumblr was only founded in 2007, by David Karp, then 21, in his bedroom in his mother’s apartment in New York. Within a fortnight it had 75,000 users; by January 2012, there were 42m blogs on the site; today, there are around 110m, and the investors who have poured $125m into the company include Sir Richard Branson.
With a high-profile press conference scheduled for Monday afternoon at a location in a lounge in New York’s Times Square, just a couple of miles from Tumblr’s headquarters, nobody expects Mayer will turn up empty-handed. According to the Wall Street Journal on Sunday evening, the Yahoo board have agreed to pay $1.1bn for Tumblr and will let it continue to operate as an independent business.
Yahoo declined to comment ahead of the announcement, but pointed out that it will be streamed live. That’s something the company previously only did (in audio) for its quarterly financial results. Which points to Mayer being aware of its significance, and wanting the world’s media to realise it too.
For Yahoo, capturing the white-hot blogging site which is so easy to use that it repeatedly and effortlessly captures the zeitgeist (such as “White Men Wearing Google Glass“) could catapult it back into the top flight of contenders, in a web world that has become hugely more complicated since it was set up in March 1995 – before Google and nearly a decade before Facebook.
Tumblr’s attraction is how easily people can create their own web presence; they can go from zero to blogging in less than a minute, collecting pictures, and posting stuff effortlessly. Unlike Facebook, it’s anonymous; yet it has powerful search for finding “similar” content, which is often reshared. As the network grows, that internal sharing grows and grows.
Web measurement company Quantcast says Tumblr had 217m global users in the past month, and was the US’s 24th most popular site with about 75m US users. For Yahoo, it says the figure is about the same: 75m US monthly users.
But for Tumblr, Yahoo could bring the skills at pulling in advertising sales it has been sorely missing. It also looks like something of a shotgun marriage. Tumblr only has a few months’ worth of cash left, according to industry gossip, and has been shopping itself around the industry for a little while. It pulled in $13m of advertising in 2012, but is spending far more than that.
It hoped to hit a $100m revenue target for 2013 but that seems unlikely now, making its purchase a potential lifesaver for both companies, and for investors.
Unlike Facebook, Tumblr has been slow to pull in advertisers. Speaking to the Guardian in January 2012, Karp expressed disdain for how other sites use ads. Of Google-owned YouTube, he said: “They take your creative works – your film that you poured hours and hours of energy into – and they put ads on top of it. They make it as gross an experience to watch your film as possible. I’m sure it will contribute to Google’s bottom line; I’m not sure it will inspire any creators.”
At Yahoo, Mayer was only appointed 10 months ago, in a move that looked both audaciously clever, and a last throw of the dice. She was at the time one of the longest-serving staff at Google, having been there 13 years, but had apparently been bypassed for the high-profile jobs. Yahoo, meanwhile, had seen revenues slump, and a revolving-door procession of CEOs.
“Yahoo will be able to offer advertisers a full set of channels that serve most demographics,” commented Ben Thompson, who works in the technology industry on his Stratechery blog. “That’s where the synergy is; I don’t think anyone expects Tumblr users to suddenly develop an affinity for Yahoo.”
One tricky question that Mayer will have to face up to: if it completes the acquisition, what should it do about all the porn? It’s an open secret that a significant proportion of Tumblr blogs are “not safe for work” viewing. But cleaning out the porn might not be popular with users.
The big fear though is that Tumblr will turn out to be an updated version of Geocities. When Yahoo bought that in January 1999, it was the third most-visited site on the internet, because of its collection of “communities” where people could create their own sites. Though it became famous for users’ garish choice of page colours and blinking “Under Construction” logos, Geocities was also a resource many loved. But the company arguably never got back the $3.57bn it paid – entirely in stock, at $36 per share; today the share price is around $27.
In 2009, Geocities was shut down, and the entire site simply wiped from the internet. For Mayer and Karp, and millions of Tumblr users, the hope must be that history won’t repeat itself.
Yahoo! on Wednesday announced that it has bought Jybe, the startup behind a smartphone application that makes local entertainment or dining recommendations based on what people like.
The Jybe team of five employees, all former Yahoo! workers, will return to the fold at the Sunnyvale, California-based firm, according to cloud platform group senior vice president Jay Rossiter. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The Jybe team will focus on targeting and personalizing results at Yahoo! websites, where online searches are powered behind the scenes by Microsoft’s Bing engine.
“This will be a ‘coming home’ for the team,” Rossiter said of the Jybe talent acquisition.
“While the Jybe app has closed, we’re confident that their data- and science-driven experience will supercharge our efforts to built great products and experiences.”
Jybe set out two years ago to create a mobile application that taps into people expressed likes and smartphone location-sensing technology to recommend local entertainment or dining options of potential interest.
“Three of us left Yahoo! to pursue our passion at Jybe, and two of us took a longer path via other startups and search-engine companies,” the startup’s team said in a blog post.
“This has been a fun and furious journey for our tiny startup, as we applied our various technology backgrounds to recommendation and mobile app design.”
Former Google executive Marissa Mayer took over at Yahoo! in July 2012, as the struggling Internet search pioneer tries to reinvent itself as a “premier digital media” company after withering in Google’s shadow.
Mayer has echoed the mantra of predecessors who maintained that the company could find prosperity by mining information about users to insightfully tailor online content and target money-making advertising.
Yahoo! is dumping products along with workers in a quest to return the faded Internet star to glory.
Yahoo! boss Scott Thompson announced the move on Tuesday while mapping out the company’s turnaround on the heels of an unusually upbeat quarter in which profit climbed 28 percent.
It was the first time since 2008 that Yahoo! saw revenue rise in a year-over-year comparison of financial quarters.
“Yahoo! has been doing way too much for way too long and was only doing a few things really well,” Thompson said during an earnings call.
“We need to be clearer going forward about what we won’t do.”
Yahoo! will shut down or consolidate 50 products that don’t “contribute meaningfully” to revenue, according to the chief executive.
The company will focus on online venues such as News, Finance, Sports, and Yahoo! Mail that attract the most users and advertisers.
Yahoo! reported net income of $286 million on revenue just shy of $1.08 billion in the first three months of this year.
Yahoo! shares jumped more than two percent on the news, hitting $15.44 a share in after-market trade.
“In the first quarter, Yahoo!’s results… beat consensus on revenue and profits,” Thompson said.
“We also made changes to resize the organization and establish a new leadership structure to quickly deliver the best user and advertiser experiences at scale.”
Yahoo! this month said it would slash some 2,000 jobs in a purge aimed at transforming into a “smaller, nimbler, more profitable” company.
The 17-year-old company based in Sunnyvale, California, had more than 14,000 employees at the end of 2011.
Thompson who took the helm in January promising to turn the company around after a year of falling income.
“We had way too many people for the amount of output for this business,” Thompson said. “A streamlined Yahoo! will help us get things done at the pace required.
Yahoo! has been trying to reinvent itself as a “premier digital media” company since the once-flowering Internet search service found itself withering in Google’s shadow.
As the company strived for a new identity it saw an exodus of talent that commenced during a failed bid by technology giant Microsoft to buy Yahoo! four years ago for about $45 billion.
Yahoo! hasn’t seen search ad revenue results envisioned when it subsequently struck a deal to have Microsoft power queries at its websites.
Yahoo! relies on Microsoft’s Bing search engine at its websites, customizing results for users.
“The search alliance is not yet delivering what we expected and I am personally working with Microsoft to make sure that it does,” Thompson said.
The Yahoo! share of US online ad revenues sank to 9.5 percent last year from 15.7 percent in 2009 and will drop further this year, according to eMarketer.
Social networking giant Facebook is becoming the preferred venue for display advertising key to Yahoo! revenue while Google’s dominance in search advertising strengthens, eMarketer indicated.
Yahoo! has filed a US lawsuit accusing Facebook of infringing on 10 of its patents.
Facebook fired back at Yahoo! with a countersuit charging that the faded Internet star is violating the social network’s patents — not the other way around.
Thompson, formerly head of mobile payments firm PayPal, became chief executive after months of turmoil at Yahoo!, including deadlocked talks over possibly selling off the company’s valuable assets in China and Japan.
Two weeks after Thompson was recruited, Yahoo! co-founder and former chief executive Jerry Yang resigned from the board of directors.
A few weeks later the chairman and three other directors said they would step down, opening the way for Thompson’s agenda.
That agenda includes trying to “unlock value” of Yahoo! stakes in booming Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba and Yahoo! Japan.
Thompson also wanted to incorporate more online commerce into Yahoo! offerings in a move that would play into skills he honed at eBay-owned PayPal.
“It seems like (Thompson) will take the best parts of old Yahoo! and new Yahoo! and try to craft a company out of it,” said independent Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle, noting specifics were still lacking.
“They are starting to look like there is light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t a train.”
Yahoo! on Thursday said that it will soon add a tool to its websites that allows visitors to signal that they don’t want their online activity tracked for ad targeting or other ends.
The California-based Internet pioneer promised to deploy a “Do Not Track solution” across its global network, including online advertising units Right Media and interclick, by mid-year.
“This site-wide DNT mechanism will provide a simple step for consumers to express their ad targeting preferences to Yahoo!,” the company said in a release that did not provide details regarding how the tool would work.
Yahoo! said it would provide privacy innovation in a way that continued to allow free online services supported by advertising.
Yahoo! maintained that it “looks forward to continuing the dialogue with policymakers to discuss common sense solutions that protect user privacy while maintaining the free Internet model.”
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) called for Internet users to be given an easy-to-use “Do Not Track” feature in a report released this week backing tighter online privacy laws.
The FTC put its seal on recommendations for businesses and US legislators to better protect people’s privacy in “an era of rapid change.”
“Companies should give consumers the option to decide what information is shared about them, and with whom,” the report said.
“This should include a Do-Not-Track mechanism that would provide a simple, easy way for consumers to control the tracking of their online activities.”
Progress is being made on a do-not-track tool that would prevent online services or advertisers from recording people’s Internet activities without their permission, according to the FTC.
Allowing people to roam the Internet without having their behavior tracked for targeted advertising has become a hot topic, with pressure mounting for US legislators to pass laws better safeguarding online privacy.
[Image via steve lyon on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Yahoo Inc’s new chief executive is preparing a significant restructuring of the Internet company, including layoffs that could cut thousands of employees from its payroll, according to a technology blog.
The moves could be announced as soon as the end of the month and would represent the first major changes under CEO Scott Thompson, the former PayPal president who took the top job at Yahoo in January.
The changes at the struggling Web pioneer, which recently hired the Boston Consulting Group, will focus on its products group, as well as on research, marketing and public relations and businesses that are not core to the company, according to the report on Monday in the blog AllThingsDigital.com, which cited anonymous sources.
“As we have indicated, our leadership is engaged in a process that will generate significant strategic change at Yahoo, but final decisions have not yet been made at this point.
Beyond that, we will not comment,” Yahoo said in an emailed statement.
Yahoo, whose revenue slid by more than a fifth last year, had 14,100 employees at the end of 2011.
The company fired CEO Carol Bartz in September and has been undergoing a “strategic review” since then that could include spinning of some of its Asian assets and accepting a minority investment in the company. Meanwhile, activist hedge fund ThirdPoint has announced plans to install its own slate of directors on Yahoo’s board.
(Reporting By Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)
(Yahoo! on ice photo by Randy Stewart via Flickr)