Wireless Week Associate Editor Andrew Berg recently caught up with David Katz, vice president of Yahoo! Mobile North America. Katz oversees strategic and business development activities, including the company’s mobile operations, mobile advertising sales and strategic partnerships with major operators, OEMs, publishers and ad networks.
Q: What are the keys to a sustainable mobile strategy, and how is Yahoo! accomplishing this in 2010?
A: Building great products that users love is essential to our mobile strategy. We have one of the largest mobile audiences in the U.S. with more than 37 million unique users per month visiting our sites, according to comScore M:Metrics, and millions more users globally.
Our focus is understanding our consumer and building products that deliver compelling and personally relevant mobile experiences. Two recent examples of this are the popular mobile sites we just developed for the Vancouver Winter Olympics and for March Madness. These products are mobile extensions of leading Yahoo! Sports experiences that allow our users to follow the events, teams and athletes they care about through their mobile device. We find these types of events drive high engagement and offer a great opportunity for our advertisers to extend their brand reach beyond the PC and engage with their key audiences.
To ensure we reach our users regardless of device, we build our mobile products for multiple platforms. We optimize them for high-end devices (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android etc.) and scale across lower-grade devices. It’s important to push the boundaries of mobile innovation on high-end devices; they can do more and are driving a growing share of our traffic. But as long as we’ve got meaningful audience on lower-end devices, we want to make sure we address those users too.
Another part of our strategy is to partner with OEMs and carriers around the world to distribute our products and services. On March 18, we announced a partnership with Spain’s largest operator, Telefónica España, to exclusively power search on their emocion portal. With more than 80 partnerships globally with carriers, we’re continually focused on solidifying our role as the preferred mobile partner worldwide.
And of course monetization is a big part of our strategy. Yahoo! is a global leader in PC advertising and our focus has been on creating synergies between Internet advertising on the Web and advertising on mobile. We’ve had particular success here with our apps like Fantasy Football where brands like Toyota, Subway and Visa bought across PC and Mobile to maximize their reach and effectiveness.
Mobile represents an ever-growing percentage of Yahoo!’s overall traffic, especially in Asia Pacific and other emerging markets. These markets remain a priority for us, as mobile will continue to represent an incredible opportunity to connect people around the world to Internet services.
Q: How are consumers using search on mobile devices, and how is this behavior different than the PC? Is this still a priority for Yahoo!?
A: Yahoo! was one of the first companies to think of mobile search differently, we revolutionized the mobile search industry in 2007 with the launch of our first Yahoo! oneSearch product. The innovation hasn’t slowed, and our consumer experience has continued to get even better. Yahoo!’s mobile search services run across thousands of devices and powers mobile search for more than 80 mobile operators globally.
As a pioneer in the space, we’ve gained a huge amount of knowledge about consumer behavior and are designing products to deliver the answers and relevant information people are looking for in a mobile context. We’re also looking for ways to simplify search and make it fun and easy for users. Two products that we launched at CTIA are Yahoo! Sketch-A-Search and Yahoo! Search for the iPhone. These two iPhone apps provide consumers with an entertaining and engaging search experience that delivers powerful information in a fast, locally aware and elegant manner. You can now use your finger to draw an area on a map and instantly find restaurants within that location. You’ll see Yahoo! continue to develop powerful mobile search experiences like these.
Q: Yahoo! has a big content play on the PC. How is this differentiating you in mobile?
A: Content is key. When you mix compelling content with highly personalized mobile products, users continue to come back to your products and engage for lengthier periods of time. Yahoo! is known for our incredible content and passionate audiences behind our Sports, News, Entertainment and Finance properties. In the new era of mobile, consumers demand the ability to take the same content and services they know and love on the PC and continue their experience on mobile.
The same logic applies to advertisers across the Yahoo! network. Advertisers want to extend their brand campaigns across both PC and mobile, engaging with their target demographic on multiple screens to reach them wherever they are. Most recently, Samsung and Visa sponsored our PC and mobile Winter Olympics and KFC and Southwest Airlines did the same for our March Madness. Advertisers recognize the opportunity mobile provides and how it can be harnessed as part of the overall marketing mix.
Q: Is Yahoo! concerned about the loss of native search on most T-Mobile smartphones?
A: Mobile is a key priority for Yahoo!. With more than 80 mobile search partnerships with carriers and OEMs, including the recently announced partnerships with Telefónica in Spain, O2 in Germany and Chunghwa Telecom in Taiwan, we are displacing our largest search competitor.
Mobile search is highly competitive, and overall, we think we are winning deals because we offer a superior product to our consumers, advertisers and our partners.
T-Mobile USA and Yahoo! continue to work together on a variety of significant initiatives, including recently expanding our partnership to include prominent placement for Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo! Finance, Flickr and weather on T-Mobile’s Web2Go portal. We also have a partnership for Yahoo! Mail and Yahoo! Messenger.
Yahoo! remains the exclusive mobile search service for millions of consumers across T-Mobile’s European footprint.