Katie Couric, David Pogue, Yahoo and the inexorable march to online

David Pogue, and now Katie Couric.couricyahoo380

Two media stars seem to have caught a glimpse of the future.

That future is online, on demand, and inevitable. And a big part of that future will be video.

The announcement by Yahoo.com and Couric will be joining the web conglomerate as a “global anchor” left folks in the traditional media scratching their heads a bit. The business press, with the point of view of earning profits for investors, wonders about the details of the deal and whether or not Couric is “worth it” in terms of Yahoo’s bottom line.

For instance:

BusinessWeek:
Yahoo Hired Katie Couric, but Is She Worth the Money?

By

By adding Couric, Yahoo is clearly trying to give people a reason to visit (and revisit) its site. But adding a 56-year-old news veteran with a lukewarm following probably isn’t the groundbreaking move the company needs to turn itself around.

Kara Swisher at AllThingsD.com has the better story. Why is Couric reducing her television (traditional media) profile for a high profile spot on the Internet? That’s a good question.

All Things D:
Katie Couric Deal to Become Yahoo’s “Global News Anchor” Set to Be Announced Monday

Perhaps more interestingly, it is a novel shift by Couric, who sources said became interested in the idea of doing a Web-only news show when she attended a Yahoo event for advertisers in the Caribbean last fall.

That said, pre-Mayer, Couric had also been engaged in talks with the company for some kind of Internet presence since early 2011, according to internal memos from Yahoo from the time (more on that later). And she also had talks back in 2004 when Lloyd Braun was running Yahoo media.

Andrea Peterson, writing in the Washington Post, does a good job of nailing down the important point — the long-term point in her assessment of why people like Couric and David Pogue, formerly of the New York Times and now also at Yahoo, made their moves: the rise of video on the web.

Washington Post:
Katie Couric, David Pogue, and why Yahoo wants more video content

By Andrea Peterson

But Couric isn’t the only recent hire that appears aimed at attracting engaged eyeballs to video content: Yahoo recently recruited the prolific New York Times tech columnist David Pogue, known not just for his writing, but for his frequent video posts, appearances as a technology commentator for CBS News’s “CBS Sunday Morning” and his PBS Nova series.

And there’s a pretty compelling reason for Yahoo to be investing in such people: They are established personal brands with a proven track record of bringing in video-content audiences. That’s key to Yahoo’s efforts to build out its media arm, which is itself key to building its ad revenue.

As it stands now, the company doesn’t have enough supply to fulfill the demand for video ads. In fact, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer told investors that during a call in July, saying, “Our video inventory sells out months in advance, which is not a good thing.” Her solution: “Working hard to drive traffic and video views will make this a primary area of investment over the next year.” Part of that campaign is about bringing on personalities such as Pogue and Couric who more or less guarantee those video views.

And that’s even more important because consumers are spending more and more of their time online with digital video as online speeds have increased and the quality of video streaming has improved. The most recent Pew Internet & American Life Project data show that 78 percent of adult online visitors watch videos online or download video.

***

The evidence is clear whatever the short-term wisdom (or lack thereof) of Yahoo’s moves turns out to be.

More and more people are going online, in great part because their online content is “on demand.” Those who try to stand in the way of this shift — newspapers, cable companies, cable channels, book publishers and the like — will be like those who stand in the way of a mighty, flooding river. They will be swept away.

 

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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