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Yahoo’s content chief Jeff Dossett, interview part 3

Dossett
In part three of our five part interview with Jeff Dossett, Yahoo’s senior VP of audience who heads up the Santa Monica office, he talks about Yahoo’s unique, research- and advertiser-driven approach to developing original video programming, as well as whether big media companies are partners or competitors (or both).

For more on Dossett, read the introduction to part one of our interview. Read part two here.

Ben Fritz: What about your approach to original video programming? It seems like with your new celebrity mom show, I’m forgetting the name –

Jeff Dossett: “Spotlight to Nightlight.” I love it.

BF: It seems like there was the old approach, the one I think Yahoo was taking, was the TV approach, which is “Come in and pitch me twenty shows, make three of them and see which one hits.” Seeing how you developed “Spotlight,” it seems like the content sort of came last. First “What’s the audience,” and then you had an advertiser, and then you designed the content around that rather than listening to pitches. Is that right, is that your general approach nowadays?

JD: I think that’s accurate. I think that we take a much more audiences-insights-centric approach to determining where can we add value, where can we serve an unfilled or unmet audience need uniquely well, and so we start with the vast amount of data that we have within our interactions with online users, and from industry research, and we keep peeling away layers of the onion to find something that’s uniquely actionable – that nugget of audience insight that we can focus our innovation in and around, and when you do that you create blockbuster hits. They break through all the clutter online, and they propel Yahoo to number one.

OMG was a great example of that, as an overall experience. “Primetime in No Time,” for that particular segment. “Tech Ticker” in the business and financial news segment. It resonates so well with the audience: “Help make sense of what’s happening in the marketplace today.” We need to have all the articles from the authoritative business content providers, but now we make it more human, we make it more understandable, we make it more relevant to our audience. The engagement level with “Tech Ticker” has been extraordinary. And as a result of that, we’ve made it easier for people to consume the content in a manner in which they want, and subsequently they interact more deeply with the rest of content on Yahoo Finance.

There are so many examples: “Good Morning Yahoo,” for news. “The Sports Minute,” for sports. These all come from audience insights first, and then, working with advertisers who also are trying to connect with this audience, we collaborate and then identify unique, compelling, innovate experience for users, and we build that and deliver that, and each time we do that we create a hit.

It’s focused, targeted original programming. We’re not confused about which business we’re in, or what type of company we are. The vast majority of content that exists on the Yahoo network is licensed or acquired from other people who are experts in that area, but we can absolutely add value, and original programming is a great tool, or tactic that we use. It really adds the Yahoo tone, personality and essence to the experience that might otherwise be somewhat commodotized or equivalent across the market.

BF: Along those lines of content, I’d like to get your perspective on how you see Yahoo partnering or competing with traditional media companies, networks, etc. One great example might be something like Hulu. I think when it started, we all thought, “Oh, Yahoo and the other big websites are going to be the place people find this content,” and it seems like Hulu.com has become a much bigger competitor than maybe a lot of people thought, as opposed to the syndication model. Do you still see them as really valuable partners and advertisers, or do you also see them as competitors you’re going up against in some categories?

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