Talking tech since 2003

Marissa Mayer, seemingly satisfied with the way things are going for the tech side of Yahoo, has spent the past couple of months roping in some big-name media talent for the company’s content push. Katie Couric is by far the biggest name on the list. Former New York Times tech columnist David Pogue is another.

Couric was lured to Yahoo to host a talk show on Yahoo’s home page; a show that might not be much different from the one she currently hosts on ABC. Pogue was brought on to spearhead Yahoo’s technology journalism effort. Both are old media stars being brought in by Yahoo to afford credibility to its new projects, and both are going to be aiming for those so called “normals” that Pogue spoke of when unveiling Yahoo Tech on Tuesday.

The difference between the two efforts is that Katie Couric could probably get away with doing any type of show she wanted. She’s Katie Couric, after all. Pogue’s Yahoo Tech, however, is likely feeling the push toward generic, BuzzFeed and Upworthy-type content because the glaring conflict of interest — being owned by Yahoo — affects the credibility of the site and would have Yahoo reporters walking on eggshells when reporting on Yahoo itself.

Think about it. If Yahoo Tech absolves itself of serious tech journalism, it can forego reporting on the fact that the Yahoo homepage installed malware on 2 million computers last week. Even though the “normals” out there are probably the ones who’d need help uninstalling that malware. Yahoo can turn a blind eye to stories like that if they make Yahoo look bad.

What about Yahoo Mail’s weak implementation of encryption? Surely that’s a story worth reporting. Shouldn’t grandma and grandpa be warned about sending sensitive information through Yahoo Mail? Nah. Encryption is a jargon word. Too confusing! How about an article on “How To Send Snapchats With GIANT AWESOME EMOJI” instead?


That’s not to say Yahoo Tech will completely ignore the mothership. Look back at yesterday’s Pogue interview with Summly founder & Yahoo News Digest product manager Nick D’Aloisio. Valleywag called this interview a “Beautiful Blowjob to Yahoo” and, boy, was it ever. Two Yahoo guys, kicking it on stage, chit-chatting. It had all the ingredients of an interview — questions and answers — but, really, it was just two guys promoting Yahoo News Digest.

How do you beat that if you’re Yahoo? You don’t. And you want more stuff like that. More positive press, even if you’re the press it’s coming from. If you have to throw out the in-depth reporting with all its “complicated terminology” to make things more simple, so be it.

Compare this approach to that of TechCrunch. Sure, they’re swimming in an ocean full of conflicts of interest over there, but they’re reporting on tech news no matter how close it hits to home. Quite often, it’s delightful reading. Perhaps that’s because TechCrunch was its own entity at one point before being swallowed up by AOL. Or maybe AOL respects the editorial independence of its news sites. In either case, I doubt we’ll see a negative story about Yahoo come out of Yahoo Tech, or even a disgusted tweet from Pogue about something Marissa Mayer has done (like this one from Alexia Tsosis).

That’s probably the most disappointing thing about Yahoo Tech. It isn’t that the site wants to make things more “simple” for those who don’t know a lot about tech, it’s that Yahoo Tech is using that as an excuse to operate under different standards than everyone else. It’s not a big departure from the site’s previous mission, but with the addition of Pogue and the renewed effort to make the site popular, I guess I expected more.

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