This week, Yahoo continued with its prolific acquisition strategy with a one-two punch picking up companies working on video — a sign that, while some of its acquisitions have been basic talent grabs, at least a few of them have a very specific focus to them, concentrating on fixing its long-neglected video business. The move taps not just into how Yahoo hopes to build up its audience of users who spend more time with Yahoo, but also subsequently tap into premium advertising served alongside it.
First the basics. On Friday, Yahoo announced its purchase of EvntLive, a virtual venue and concert hall for live and on-demand music. EnvtLive debuted in February with plans to re-define the way people engage with music online by creating a scalable platform to host live, streaming concerts — from sold-out arenas to intimate clubs.
Just days before, it had made another video buy, acqui-hiring the team behind DreamWorks-incubated mobile video company, Ptch (apparently in a raw deal for early employees). The app, among other things, aimed to make it easy people to video mashups by providing tools that allow users to remix their existing content by adding music, effects and to share with friends.
EvntLive’s goal was to support its live, streaming concert venue with a curated, searchable library of shows for fans that may have missed the live concert, which would then be supported by social media integration, premium content (like behind-the-scenes video), a database of information about artists and an eCommerce marketplace where fans could purchase stuff from their favorite bands.
While live, online music has attracted many startups over the years, it has yet to produce a definitive platform, partly due to the many obstacles inherent to the music industry, its resistance to digital technologies, and the slow, painful sea change that has fundamentally reshaped the music business over the last five years.
Nonetheless, EvntLive saw an opportunity to be take advantage of the new distribution, marketing, recording and manufacturing models making their way into the music world, and be the first to combine streaming video, live music, social networking and eCommerce in one music platform. The startup’s potential appeal was also boosted by some veteran leadership and talent from both the music and tech industries, starting with people like Judy Estrin.
Estrin, who served as EvntLive’s Executive Director, began her career working with Vint Cerf’s research group at Stanford University — the same one that played a central role in the development of the Internet. She has founded seven technology companies, served as the CTO of Cisco Systems and held board positions at FedEx for 20 years, Sun Microsystems for eight years, and currently sits on the board of The Walt Disney Company (a position she’s held since 1998).
Troy Carter, who represents artists like Lady Gaga and John Legend, served as both an advisor and investor, and EnvtLive had raised $2.3 million in capital from a long list of investors. Those included people like “Father of the Internet” and Google exec, Vint Cerf, Mayfield Fund partner and Glooko Chairman, Yogen Dalal, former Intel exec Dave House, Tapjoy President and CEO Steve Wadsworth, among others.
Neither Yahoo nor EvntLive are revealing the terms of the deal, but EvntLive has revealed that its platform will be shut down. Compared to other video-centric acquisitions Yahoo has made, like Ptch and Qwiki, which had both been around for quite some time, EvntLive launched less than a year ago. So, in that sense, the exit-and-shutter result may leave some of its early supporters with a bad taste in their mouth.
It could be that EvntLive found more friction in the music industry than it had expected or that perhaps adoption didn’t take off as quickly as it had hoped. But when we caught up with Judy Estrin today, she told us that, while it was a difficult decision for the team to make, the opportunity to be part of a bigger company and have access to the resources that come with it, won out. As a result of the acquisition, Yahoo will now be able to use the startup’s technology throughout its digital media, video and music products, which, in turn, gives EvntLive access to a much larger network and audience than it might have reached on its own.
Plus, though the team started out by focusing on music, the idea was always for EvntLive to become a platform for a wide variety of events, she said. With Yahoo, EvntLive will likely have that opportunity. However, it is worth noting that neither Estrin, nor co-founders David Carrico and Alex and Jonathan Beckman will be joining Yahoo.
What This Means For Yahoo
While it’s an early end for EvntLive, things are just beginning for Yahoo. EvntLive, following recent acquisitions like Ptch and Qwiki, is further evidence that Yahoo is getting serious about investing in and fixing its video technology.
In a world where video and digital entertainment are thoroughly dominated by Netflix and Google-YouTube (half of the Internet’s traffic, in fact), it’s easy to forget that companies like Yahoo used to contend in the space. But over the years, the company’s video products and technology have been left in the dust by the Hulus and Netflixes of the world.
That was put into stark relief when Yahoo announced its acquisition of Tumblr this summer. The event, which was streamed live via its streaming video tech, “Screen,” was unwatchable. The video cut out and was hicuppy throughout. As a result, I pleaded with the company to reserve some of its seemingly endless M&A budget to buy better video technology.
Not saying that Yahoo heard those pleas, but this summer, for the first time, Marissa Mayer began publicly talking up the company’s plans in video. Building a better video platform has become a top priority, she said at the time, adding that video would be a “primary area of investment over the next year.” What’s more, Yahoo made the unprecedented move to broadcast its second quarter earnings call live this year.
They’ve improved over a year ago, but they still need a lot of work. Why would you visit those instead of YouTube, Hulu or even, gasp, Aol for video? [Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Aol, but that doesn't mean we don't still think it's a joke a lot of the time.] Or Spotify for music?
On the video front, Adding SNL was a big move by Yahoo and, in the end, if you have the content, licenses and contracts, then people will come anyway while you fix the tech and the design. But, really, isn’t the question whether Yahoo should even be trying to compete with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon for the rights to stuff like SNL’s archives in the first place? Arguably, that’s a more significant question than the degree to which it’s behind Tech Company X or Y in video, etc.
Although, clearly, having added Katie Couric as an anchor, Yahoo is indeed serious — both about fixing video and competing with, well, someone. Aol, most likely. If Yahoo is looking to Tumblr to have a connection to younger audiences, Couric is something different. Because, for most people under 50, adding Katie Couric as an anchor won’t make a difference to their viewing habits.
Services like EvntLive and Ptch sit apart from content grabs: their technology and services can be used across all of them.
While we know that EvntLive will be joining Yahoo’s video team and that its homepage now includes links to Yahoo Screen and Yahoo Music, both Yahoo and its new aqui-hires have remained mum about how they plan to improve and modernize these products. (Beyond just making sure that streaming video means streaming video.) It’s very likely that this plan is still evolving and may not even be clear on that as of yet.
But Estrin has told us in the past that the team had a lot of pride in the engineering team and technology infrastructure it had built behind its virtual concert hall, and there’s no doubt that Yahoo needs it. It still has a long way to go in both video and music. Although hope and confidence are returning for investors and analysts, looking at the gap between Yahoo and other tech leaders in music, video (and a number of other arenas) it’s hard not to wince. It’s going to need all the EvntLives it can get.
Yahoo has acquired Evntlive, an online platform for live concerts, the two companies announced Friday. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed
Evntlive was founded in late 2011 and launched in beta in April 2012 after raising $2.3 million in funding from notable investors including Vint Cerf, often referred to as one of the fathers of the Internet. Like many of the companies Yahoo has acquired over the past year, Evntlive will be shutting down and the team will work on Yahoo projects
“Since launching our beta service in April 2013, we have live streamed hundreds of performances from amazing artists and festivals to fans all over the world,” the company wrote on its website. “Although our service will no longer be available, we are excited to be joining Yahoo’s video team.” Read more…
Ptch, the DreamWorks Animation-incubated mobile video startup, has been acquired by Yahoo. The app was launched just over a year ago and will shut down on January 2, 2014. Until then, you’ll be able to download your ‘ptches’ if you’re a user, or save them out to your camera roll. The announcement was made on the Ptch blog this afternoon. “As part of the Yahoo team,” the announcement reads, “we’ll be able to focus our efforts and leverage our technology to make Yahoo’s photo and video platforms the best in the world.” Due to the text of the announcement and the fact that the product will be shuttered, we’re calling this one an acqui-hire. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Ptch was an app that started inside DreamWorks Animation, as a project of its CTO Ed Leonard, who ended up taking on the CEO role. Co-founder Hans Ku also worked at DreamWorks. When we spoke to the Ptch team last year, there were around 20 of them, about one-third of which came from DreamWorks. About two-thirds of them came from outside places like Yahoo and Myspace. Now, it looks like some of them will boomerang back to the big purple. The app allowed users to remix their videos with effects and music, and to offer their original clips up to others in order to mash them up and remix them further. The concept was centered around allowing friends and people with shared experiences to use all of their combined media to craft the ‘story’ of the event. There’s no word on where this leaves DWA Investments, the separate company that was funded by DreamWorks and which created Ptch. Since it’s equity-owned by the employees, it seems like it would go along with the acquisition, likely to be dissolved. This continues Yahoo’s strategy of absorbing talent in the mobile app design and development space. Yahoo is in the process of retooling all of its offerings to be mobile-centric, and developing new properties to bolster its media empire. In order to do that, it’s been snapping up small teams and products that have strategic value of some sort, but mostly for the people.
Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world.
Today, we’re looking at three particularly interesting storiesYahoo published its list of the top searches for 2013, as well as its first list of the most viral blogs on Tumblr. According to a report, scientists have developed malware capable of transmitting data via inaudible sound using a computer’s internal speakers and microphone. And Apple purchased social media analytics firm Topsy for more than $200 million, according to The Wall Street Journal
Check out the video above for more on these stories. Read more…
Yahoo announced on Monday it acquired startup SkyPhrase to make finding what you want online easier, without using disjointed words and phrases in the search form.
The company said via a blog post SkyPhrase will be joining its Yahoo Labs team in New York. The four-person startup gained popularity earlier this year for its software that turns inquiries written in natural language into something the database understands.
The platform will allow Yahoo web users to get more personalized search results when entering various queries, such as “Find an American Airlines flight next week from New York to Los Angeles.” Read more…
Lady Gaga continues her series of quirky projects for her newest album “ARTPOP” — we last wrote about her flying dress — with something fans can really, er, snuggle up with
Gaga teamed up with manufacturers in Japan to create GAGADOLL, a humanoid silicon doll that looks just like the singer. In a video showing the making of the doll, a user places his head on the doll’s chest while it plays “Applause.”
Yahoo Japan teamed up with Gaga and the doll makers to create an interactive portal that lets you scroll down an image of the doll and click through icons and links on its all-white outfit — even down to her crazily high heels. The page contains links to Yahoo Japan sites, a Lady Gaga Japan tweet, news about Gaga and her Universal Music Japan page Read more…
During the week, we consume words in snackable, tweetable bites. But on the weekends, we have the time to take a dive into the murkier, lengthier depths of the Internet and expand our attention spans beyond 140 characters. We can brew a cup of coffee and lie back with our iPads, laptops, smartphones and Kindles.
Since you’re bound to miss a few things during the daily grind, we present to you, in our weekly installation of Mashable Must Reads, a curated list of can’t-miss stories to read and reflect on. (You can find last week’s must reads here.) Read more…
This is what happened:
Scene: A Silicon Valley church basement. Folding chairs, coffee, cigarettes tucked behind ears. Jon EVANS, a tall man with a shaved head and an Arsenal FC T-shirt, steps forward to the podium. He has a slight Canadian accent.
Jon: Hi, my name’s Jon, and I’m a Yahoo! user.
Room, in unison: Hi, Jon!
Jon: I guess…I mean, this is so embarrassing, obviously…I guess my story’s like a lot of yours. I got into Yahoo! when I was young, because back then it seemed really cool. If only I had known then what I know now. But I went for a six-month trip across Africa and Yahoo was the only web-mail service that could access my Unix shell account via POP. Gmail didn’t exist yet, Hotmail was a joke, and I was sending friends emails from Cameroon and Zimbabwe, they were amazed, they were jealous. So I got hooked. And then…
He falls into grim silence for a moment.
Moderator (a pale, gaunt woman with nails bitten to the quick): Then what?
Jon: Then I guess I went all the way down the rabbit hole. I registered my domain with them. I used them to host my vanity site. I was in so much denial that when they bought Flickr, you’re not going to believe this, but when they bought Flickr I was excited about it. I thought it would be great.
(Hollow laughter echoes through the room.)
Jon: Now, though – I mean, you all know what it’s like to be a Yahoo! user now.
Pained yet sympathetic expressions ripple across the crowd.
Jon: The things that work haven’t changed in like ten years, and the things that have changed don’t work any more. Or they look prettier, like the Flickr redesign, or their new NFL game reports, but then you try to use them and you realize that actually they’re just more broken than ever. I used to be proud that I was a Yahoo! user. Now it’s shameful. I have to hide it from all my friends. (glances at camera in corner of the room) That thing isn’t on, is it?
Moderator: (hastily – too hastily) No.
Jon: Good. (under his breath) I’m totally going to bury this post on a holiday weekend when no one will read it.
Moderator: Excuse me?
Jon: Uh, nothing. Anyway, the thing is, I even know what their problem is. I’m an engineer, and a long-term user, so I can tell Yahoo!’s engineering is just terrible. I mean, maybe their engineers are pretty good and they’re just hamstrung by their process and bureaucrats and what have you, I don’t know about that, but the results are terrible. Paul Graham said it years ago: “Yahoo treated programming as a commodity.” I mean, consider Yahoo! Mail –
(A loud, angry groan erupts around the room.)
Moderator: So why have you stuck with them?
Jon: I…I really don’t know. Partly it was because I was uncomfortable about how much of my online information Google has, but now I’ve lost so much faith that I’m backing up all my mail to one of my Gmail accounts anyway, which kind of fundamentally defeats that purpose. Partly because moving would be such a hassle. But the thing is – well –
Moderator: Go on.
Jon: The thing is, I somehow still want Yahoo not to suck. Every time they say things will get better, I want to believe them, even though every time it’s been a lie. Oh, we’ve licked the peanut butter problem, now everything will be fine. Oh, Marissa Mayer’s CEO, now everything will be fine. But the truth is –
Jon: The truth is that it’s not going to be fine. Not now, not ever. Because their engineering sucks, so they’re like a sprinter wearing leg irons starting 50 metres behind the competition. And you know what? It’s too late for even Marissa Mayer to fix that.
Moderator: So you’re quitting? Cold turkey?
(Chairs creak as their occupants lean forward, with bated breath, hanging on his words)
Jon: you know what, I’m going to give them one more chance. I don’t even know why. Just one more. But this time, I swear, this time if it doesn’t work out, I’m done.
(Disappointment is written loudly across every face in the room, including his.)
Moderator: (with deep sadness) OK. We understand. Thanks, Jon.
Jon: I’m sorry.
Image credit: Dave Ward, Flickr.
After cycling through all the major networks, except Fox, Katie Couric announced this week she would become the global anchor at Yahoo News. After the surprise wore off, the primary question was: Is this a bold claim on the future or a desperate gamble based on a discredited business model?
It appears to be a marriage of convenience. For Couric, 56, who famously tried to resurrect the CBS Evening News, Yahoo is a chance to embrace a new medium. Couric told Capital New York that she won’t try to reproduce a half-hour news show online, but instead will use the opportunity to experiment: “What I really am excited about in working with the team at Yahoo is that there are no rules right now, we are going to try things, we are going to see how they go, we are going to see what people are interested in, we can do everything from a town hall meeting to in-depth interviews to a breaking news story.” Read more…
nk497 writes “Only 25% of Yahoo staff have obeyed the company’s request to ‘eat their own dog food’ and switch to Yahoo Mail, a colorful internal memo has revealed. The leaked email, acquired by All Things Digital, implores staff to move over to the corporate version of Yahoo’s webmail system, gently lambasting staff who refuse to part with Microsoft Outlook. The message goes on to take a swipe at what appears to be Yahoo employees’ preferred mail client, Microsoft Outlook, describing it as ‘anachronism of the now defunct 90s PC era, a pre-web program written at a time when NT Server terrorized the data center landscape with the confidence of a T-Rex born to yuppie dinosaur parents who fully bought into the illusion of their son’s utter uniqueness because the big-mouthed, tiny-armed monster infant could mimic the gestures of The Itsy-Bitsy Pterodactyl.’”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.