In Defense of Yahoo Tech

Harry C. Marks / January 24th, 2014

Ever since Marissa Mayer took hold of Yahoo, she and her team have been updgrading the company’s online offerings to better compete in a rapidly changing arena. First came Flickr and the Yahoo Weather App, and now the former search giant is upping its news presence.

Yahoo recently partnered with former New York Times tech columnist David Pogue to launch a less-“gearheded” technology site. One that speaks to a wider swath of readers than most. Enter Yahoo Tech.

In an introductory column, Pogue describes what readers can expect from the new site:

I’m not interested in knowing which processor model is in a phone. I want to know if the phone is _fast. _Which may or may not have anything to do with what processor is in a phone.

So in my columns, you’ll find an emphasis on the human side of tech. On the _context _of a new product. How it feels, how it works, how it’s designed, whether it’s worth the money, of course—but also how it changes the game, changes society, changes us.

This declaration of independence from the nerdier side of tech blogging, combined with a less-than-flattering slide during his CES presentation, certainly rankled several prominent writers on Twitter, like The Verge’s Nilay Patel:

and Om Malik:

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 8.44.32 PM

and the hilariously self-unaware John Herrman of Buzzfeed:

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iMore’s Peter Cohen, however, stands up for Yahoo Tech in a reflective piece on the knee-jerk reactions of he and his fellow tech writers who didn’t take kindly to being mocked onstage:

To my colleagues in the tech press: Stop taking yourselves so seriously. Really. Lighten up. Whether you believe it or not, the vast majority of people out there don’t care about what you’re talking about (and yes, I’m talking to myself a bit here too).

Trying to make tech accessible and more human is a _good_ thing. It’s something we in the tech press should _all_ aspire to do more often.

With Yahoo’s purchase of Aviate, the developers of an Android app launcher, as well as its launch of a new News Digest app and the aforementioned Yahoo Tech, it’s clear Yahoo is gunning for the position it once held for millions of people during the mid-to-late ‘90s—as the center of an internet user’s daily life.

TechCrunch’s Matt Panzarino expands on Yahoo’s acquisition of Aviate, which plays into Yahoo’s “hub” mentality:

Yahoo SVP of Mobile and Emerging Products Adam Cahan says that the company isn’t interested in turning Aviate into some sort of ‘all Yahoo apps’ portal. For now, it will expand the beta program and get more users checking it out. “Think of this as an extension of [Yahoo] Search,” Cahan says.

The extension of search metaphor is an apt one, as contextually aware home screens will be all about using anticipatory ‘searching’ through our apps, habits and use cases to provide us with better experiences. Aviate will now be able to tap deeply into Yahoo data like search, weather, maps and more to inform contextual experiences.

When Yahoo still had the exclamation point at the end and those yodeling TV ads on every channel, it was the king of search. There was Yahoo! and everybody else. Your email address ended in @yahoo.com (and for many, it still does). Your homepage was yahoo.com. It’s where you got your news, your weather, your horoscope, and the winning lotto numbers. Yahoo! was the information dashboard for several years. Then came Google.

Marissa Mayer seems to be steering Yahoo back in that direction—as a center for news and information for mainstream readers. The company even hired Katie Couric as its Global News Anchor. If anything, Yahoo is competing with The Huffington Post, the stew pot of online publications.

Yahoo Tech won’t attract the gadget-freaks who read sites like The Verge, or Engadget, or even Tech.pinions, but that’s because it’s not trying to. Instead, Yahoo is focusing on providing readers with a central hub for the important news of the day devoid of jargon and inside baseball. Tech bloggers hate it because they feel threatened, but Yahoo Tech isn’t competing with them. Rather, it’s catering to a crowd long ignored by gadget nerds.

Some consider it “dumbing down” tech news and reviews, but it takes smart people to make difficult topics approachable by the masses and if it means more people reading and understanding the gadgets entering their lives, then more power to Yahoo.

Harry C. Marks

Harry Marks is a novelist and web columnist from New Jersey. He owns and operates CuriousRat.com and has written for various publications, including The Magazine, The Loop Magazine, and Macgasm.
  • RS

    Fair enough

  • Rene Stein

    I love that slide. I read a lot about technology, but never do I go to any of those sites. I used to read Gizmoody and Enbadger, but they are horrible sites for content and feature the dregs of the tech world in the commenting section. I’ve never read The Urge. They came out when I had very slow internet access and I never had the patience to wait ten minutes for their 2MB homepage to load. I’m glad the some people are making websites about technology for the “rest of us”.

  • stefnagel

    Funny, I just shared Pogue’s YT column on Sony cameras. I think he’s a terrific writer, simple and concise.

  • mhikl

    I have pretty much gone Google free, save that my old gmail is now my junk mail site & carrier of sites I join. However, Yahoo search is not yet great and I find Start Page much better. If Yahoo would only offer real news on its page, I would be more willing to use it. Hollywood news is not the news I am interested in. Pogue is a good sign that Yahoo might be serious about its future.

  • I don’t care for the design nor the content of Yahoo Tech, at least not much. However, it seems like a good idea as technology becomes so pervasive in all our lives.

  • Herding_sheep

    “Some consider it “dumbing down” tech news and reviews, but it takes smart people to make difficult topics approachable by the masses and if it means more people reading and understanding the gadgets entering their lives, then more power to Yahoo.”

    Thank you for a bit of sanity and rational words. Its unbelievable how out of touch gadget freaks can be sometimes, including the writers on these sites. They’re supposed to be smart guys, so it shocks me how unintelligent they can be sometimes.

    Its that elitist mentality, which really annoys me. Saying “dumbing down” is an admission of having a bit of that elitism. That you MUST be an enthusiast in order to enjoy and understand tech media. You HAVE to be just like the writers and readers, and if you don’t want to take the time to “educate” yourself, then you’re mocked and not welcome to join. I have a fairly keen understanding of technology and products in general, but this culture of snobby trolling (from the readers AND writers) is what keeps me away from 90% of tech sites.

    • klahanas

      There’s absolutely nothing wrong or condescending with “Tech for poets”! 😉

  • Encmerk

    I think this move coupled with the extermination of iGoogle will shift momentum back toward Yahoo. I loved the iGoogle page, and still use igHome as a passable substitute, but find myself gravitating back to the new Yahoo layout. i hated it when they changed a few years back, now i don’t have much of an alternative

  • Thanks for the vote of confidence in our endeavor. I’ll try to live up to it!

  • klahanas

    Publications that bring tech to the non-technical masses do a great service. As with any field, be it law, medicine, tech, or the arts, there’s the gradient ranging from curious readers to the experts. The experts should be keeping the less technical publications honest. Some of the curious readers will go on to become experts.

    We certainly don’t want my sister-in-law, who reads Discover, performing surgery, just because she reads Discover. But she may be in a better position to ask the right questions from a physician, or have an inkling as to the physicians judgment.

  • Air_Cav

    Why does one have to defend Yahoo Tech? The site has useful information and it is in a format that is useful for many

  • Good piece, and on the money, Harry. I think they could simplify the site a bit, way too busy for the target audience I feel. But Pogue should be credited for helping make tech accessible, along with Mossberg.

  • There’s nothing worse than the reaction of a nerd learning that no, everyone doesn’t want to be them.

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