Yahoo! Debuts Tech Site

Yahoo today expected to launch Yahoo Tech, where consumers can research gear and consumer electronics products, and where technology advertisers can reach that audience. The site will provide content from a variety of sources, including print publishers, users and original content producers, who will create a reality-TV style video program for the site.

Noting that technology is one of the largest categories in online advertising, the company said Yahoo Tech could serve as “a new anchor” for campaigns running on the portal. Yahoo’s competitors in the space include longstanding sites such as CNET, as well as upstart blogs such as Engadget and Gizmodo.

Unlike some technology sites, which are aimed at gadget freaks, the Yahoo section aims to use plain English to provide advice and information to consumers looking for technology products like computers, consumer electronics, digital cameras and mobile phones. In total, 19 categories are addressed.

Hewlett-Packard, Verizon Wireless and Panasonic are the three charter sponsors, each with commitments running through the three-month launch period. HP grabbed the marquee placement on the landing page. Elizabeth Harz, category development officer of Yahoo Media Sales, said each of the sponsors submitted original creative to run on the site. The company plans to continue that practice when the site is opened to additional advertisers.

“We didn’t want the site to be ‘Times Square.’ We wanted it to be clean, clear copy, not just ‘speeds and feeds,” said Harz.

Yahoo felt it was important to launch with technology and telecom advertisers. Harz said Yahoo placed ads in trade magazines serving the advertising, technology, consumer electronics and telecom sectors to promote the site and thank the charter advertisers. After the three-month launch period, inventory will open for other category advertisers like automotive and financial.

Pat Houston, GM of Yahoo Tech, said the company planned to populate the site with a “Triumvirate of content.” Aggregated content will be supplied from Consumer Reports; John Wiley & Sons’ “For Dummies” series; McGraw Hill’s “Quick Steps,” “How to do Everything” and “Headaches” series; PC World and PC Magazine.

Additional editorial will come from four experts who will contribute original content geared toward different demographic areas. Two weeks after launch, Yahoo Tech will begin airing a technology makeover show created for the site called “Hook Me Up.” The show is produced by Michael Davies, whose resume includes producing “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and “Wife Swap.” Yahoo has a six month contract with Davies to produce one show each week.

The show consists of a series of three three- to five-minute segments. Segments include a user-submitted video requesting a makeover; the actual makeover; and a how-to follow-up demonstrating how to set up or use the technologies discussed on the show. Yahoo will gather submissions from site users, then ask other users to vote on the one who is most in need of a makeover.

Verizon will act as sole sponsor for “Hook Me Up” for the first three months.

Houston feels the show lends itself to the Web format rather than television, a point mirrored by CNET in its recent announcement to produce on-demand content.

“It’s a show about technology that can really live on the Web. It wouldn’t work for prime time TV,” said Houston.

User-generated content will also play a role. Yahoo expects users to submit dozens to hundreds of reviews for each product on the site. Yahoo will also bring over content from Yahoo Answers, which will provide a forum for the submission of both questions and answers. Yahoo VP of Content Operations Scott Moore expects the platform to “ignite the enthusiast community.”

While there has been some reluctance to placing brands next to user-submitted material, Yahoo executives said marketers are opening up to the idea. “The genie is out of the bottle, way out of the bottle,” said Houston.

In the six- to nine-month span that the site was under development, the landscape changed. “Technology advertisers are very excited about the social networking on the site,” said Harz. “It’s amazing the amount of openness today that wasn’t there six months ago.”

User-generated content extends beyond answers to questions. Consumers may collect reviews and create lists in “My Tech,” a module that allows users to tag technology they want or already own. “My Tech” lists can be shared within the community to aggregate recommendations.

Synergy with the Yahoo network extends beyond Yahoo Answers. Yahoo Tech will be promoted on the front page and throughout the site. Sections like “My Tech” will use elements of Yahoo 360 to network groups of people into a community. Product lists will aggregate price and store information through Yahoo Shopping. Yahoo Shopping will also receive revenues from clicks derived from the site.

“There’s skin in the game when it comes through Yahoo Tech,” said Houston.

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