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MSN Money – Why Yahoo’s content strategy will win in the end

It may take time, but snagging top talent like tech columnist David Pogue will help CEO Marissa Mayer transform monthly traffic into more meaningful revenue.

By Rocco Pendola

“My new boss, Robertson Barrett, told me: ‘We want to be your playground.’ That phrase is catnip to a creative type like me!”

That’s an excerpt from a Forbes interview with former New York Times tech columnist, David Pogue.

MarissaPogue now works for Yahoo (YHOO +1.14%) and, I can only assume, his “new boss,” somewhere along the food chain, reports directly to Marissa Mayer. While the Pogue hiring, in and of itself, will not take Yahoo exactly where it needs to go from advertising and profit standpoints, it illustrates what I think — and hope — is a wider content strategy at the company.

Yahoo’s big problem, at least relative to Google (GOOG +0.02%), is that the massive amount of traffic its properties receive does not necessarily translate to commensurate amounts of time spent on the site, passion or some other flavor of loyalty. You go to Yahoo to check the headlines and methodically consume the weather forecast. But, with a few exceptions, you don’t go there with the sort of vim and vigor that can excite advertisers.

If I am out on the streets selling Yahoo content, I hope I am able to sell Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Sports, particularly if I am making local- or regional-level sales (as Yahoo should be). These properties ought to serve as the model for much of what Yahoo does on the content leads to traffic leads to myriad types of advertising dollars trajectory.

I go to Yahoo Finance multiple times a day to fetch a stock quote or scan the latest headlines, but, more often than not I stick around for longer than I intended to. Same thing happens when I hit up Yahoo Sports’ NHL page to find out what time the puck drops or some other mundane detail. Something or somebody else hooks me and I view more pages — either within Yahoo or at one of its partners (which includes TheStreet) — than I planned on.

Yahoo draws me in for, say, a YHOO quote, but I stay longer because I see interesting stories under the current headlines. I click out to a partner or a Yahoo-branded site. Better yet, there’s a tease on the page that catches my eye . . . something informative, provocative or otherwise entertaining from strong Yahoo! Finance personalities such as Jeff Macke or Henry Blodget. I consume more content. The cycle repeats itself on the particular visit and, because of the allure of good content, repeats itself on an increasing number of subsequent visits.

At Yahoo Sports NHL I check to see how many goals Phil Kessel has (it’s a lot!), but I almost always end up spending more time with Yahoo because Puck Daddy or somebody else hooks me with a headline and an equally-as-worthy story.

While the new media model of hiring as many contributors as you can and pushing out as much content as you can has its merits, there’s also something — I would argue more — to be said for securing top talent and talent with the obvious potential to be top talent and strategically using them to drive the simple, yet incredibly difficult-to-achieve​, phenomenon I describe.

As Mayer noted early in her tenure as Yahoo CEO, she wants to make the site a “daily habit” for users. I don’t have to tell Mayer this, but it already is. In fact, it has been for a long time. I read deeper and stronger meaning into the notion of making Yahoo a daily habit.

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