Yahoo’s content chief Jeff Dossett, interview part 2

In part two of our five part interview with Yahoo audience group senior VP Jeff Dossett, whose responsibilities include the Santa Monica office, he explains explains why his company is targeting its content at professional Moms, why entertainment and celebrity news is a top priority, and why he’s more interested in working with partners for music.

For more on Dossett, see the introduction to part one of our interview series.

Ben Fritz: When you talk about your audience, do you see it as everyone on the Internet? Do you think at this point that you need to make the Yahoo brand as relevant to an eight-year-old as to a really digital, Twittering, Facebooking 21-year-old, as to a 50-year-old parent who’s only quasi-Internet-literate?

Jeff Dossett: I kind of refer to that as the billion dollar question.

On one hand, because of the sheer breadth and depth of the audience that interacts with the Yahoo network, it is representative of virtually everyone online, but within that large universe of users and consumers, we are identifying priority audience segments. We’re doing a lot of work looking at “Who are we best serving?” from a content and media experiences perspective, and “Who are the audiences that advertisers are looking to connect their brands and their performance offers with?” and prioritizing the audience segments and tuning the programming and content experiences to those priority audiences.

We can’t be all things to all people; we need to make some choices of which are the priority audiences. We enjoy a very unique position in the industry; the entire online audience is represented across Yahoo. We have the opportunity to select within that vast universe of users the priority audiences, and better serve them – maybe even attract more to the network – and it’s not as if we’ll disenfranchise the less prioritized audiences, but when we think about incremental investments and new experiences where we are going to place our innovation investments and bets, we’ll be very targeted and very focused.

[CEO] Carol [Bartz] talks a lot about focus, and it’s one of the great things she’s brought to Yahoo; this constant, positive, constructive questioning about what are we going to focus on and why. Focus means different things to different people at different times. In some cases, it’s “What should we do?” and “What should we not do?” and that’s really around, “Where do we think we as Yahoo have the capability to do something unique, something differentiated, something that stands out from the pack?”

“That sounds like something that’s good to focus on, we should do that.” If we’re doing something where we’re doing an okay job, but not an amazing job, we ask ourselves the question: “Should we increase our investment and focus on that to get it up to a number one or number two position, or should we do it differently?” – not necessarily not do it, but maybe do it differently – “Where can we better leverage a partner who can help us better serve that audience segment?”

In some cases, we’ll say, “We’re not particularly differentiated in what we do; we don’t really know of another way to do it any better than we do it right now; we’re not well servicing the audience segment; that’s not constructive for the Yahoo brand and experience,” so we might not do it. Focus comes in a lot of different forms, but it’s a very powerful tool.

BF: I’d love to drill into that a little, and maybe first talk about the audience. Can you maybe give some insight into what audiences you’re prioritizing? Which ones you’re looking at and saying, “This is the one we can really nail” and invest more in?

JD: There will certainly be more than one priority audience segment, and there are lots of different ways of defining audience segments. You can define them on demographic criteria, like gender, age, or something of that nature, or you can look more into needs, behavior and intent. If you take more of the demographic perspective, we over-index, if you will, on a couple of key categories.

A particular segment of the female online population, moms with one or more kids who live very busy lives. We often refer to them internally as “Chief Household Officers,” reflecting the complexity and breadth of their responsibilities both at home and professionally. It’s an audience that’s of very high interest to advertisers because they spend a lot of time online, they’re very influential in a very high percentage of household purchases, and they’re actually not well served online today. As an industry, we haven’t made it easy for that audience segment to find the content that’s relevant to them, that helps them make the decisions they need to make, help them be more productive, etc.

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