Whether or not you think it’s confusing, misguided or “opens a can of worms,” Yahoo!’s $90-$100 million Associated Content buy seems to have a clear rationale in Sunnyvale. At Search Engine Land Matt McGee calls it an SEO play, which is a very interesting angle and largely accurate:
Yahoo is, of course, getting out of the search business — turning over its search engine to Bing. But in buying Associated Content, Yahoo is making a big SEO play. Hitwise told Danny Sullivan on Twitter a few moments ago that 55% of traffic to Associated Content in April came from Google. The Econsultancy interview I mentioned above cites a comScore statistic: 90% of AC’s 16 million unique monthly visitors come from search.
PaidContent has an interview with Yahoo!’s Media Vice President James Pitaro. I’ll give you the most relevant bits from the interview regarding the justification for the deal:
—rounding out content offerings within its own media sites.
—producing content directly in response to audience needs, “which is by the way something we’ve done historically but really will be able to scale now.’
—offering the the ability to get more local.
—providing the infrastructure to build content specifically for advertisers, allowing Yahoo to partner more easily, so the thinking goes, with advertisers and produce branded entertainment at a much lower cost with scale.
Advertiser-specific content is one of the three major ways Yahoo sees to make money from Associated Content . . . The other two: using their content to grow Yahoo’s own audience reach and engagement leading to more ad dollars and partnering with Associated Content to create new areas across Yahoo’s sites.
So very clearly there’s an SEO strategy, as well as the hypothetical ability to generate more “niche” (including local) content for Yahoo!’s O&O sites. Display ads, re-targeting and behavioral targeting will be a part of all of this. And one can see this as a further extension of Yahoo!’s network “off site.” Accordingly there’s a bit of Marchex in this strategy. Alternatively perhaps this acquisition can be seen as comparable to RightMedia in some respects, a kind of “RightMedia for content.”
Yesterday I argued that Yahoo! made a mistake by not buying a blogging platform (and the related content it would throw off). This is one answer to that objection. All these underpaid Associated Content freelancers (almost 400K) are essentially bloggers.
Yahoo! and others argue that the quality of articles produced by these legions of “digital serfs” is high. Perhaps. But the Internet is awash in crap content or, more politely, what might be called “perfunctory content” — content produced solely to generate page views and ad impressions.
In my view the content explosion that Associated Content, Demand Media and others are a part of is a long-term threat to Google and will have to be dealt with in some more aggressive fashion. It seems like I’m finding more and more “thin” content and general garbage in search results these days.
Yahoo! has always aspired to create its own content and this acquisition is consistent with that. Certainly there will be many more targeted page views to monetize with video and display ads. So Yahoo! could well see a near term lift. And it’s also possible that some of Yahoo!’s own properties will benefit from Associated Content. I don’t, however, think it’s a “game changer” for Yahoo! as CEO Carol Bartz has asserted.