Yahoo Releases Livestand Magazine for iPad

What do Yahoo and magazines have in common? They may be on the ropes, but they’re not quite dead yet – they just need to adapt to the times. With this week’s release of Yahoo Livestand for the iPad, the beleaguered search engine hopes to attract readers and advertisers to what it still has to offer.

Livestand, a free magazine available only on the iPad currently, will pull from Yahoo’s website and other publishers to deliver content to suit each user’s interests. Yahoo noted that that Livestand currently includes “more than 100 popular titles and topics, including content from…ABC News, Bonnier (Parenting), Forbes, and Source Interlink Media (Bike, Powder, Surfer),” and clearly plans to add many more.

Livestand itself is available for free from Apple’s App Store. Yahoo also maintains a website, http://livestand.com, and a Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/livestandfromyahoo, for the application. It’s good to see this kind of support, since Livestand itself is somewhat behind schedule. When Yahoo previewed the application nine months ago, it said that Livestand would be available in Apple’s App Store in June. Given the many problems that have plagued the venerable search engine over the last five years, it isn’t surprising that the deadline slipped a few months.

With Livestand, Yahoo enters the competitive field of personalized news. Other contenders in this area include Zite, Ongo, Broadfeed, News360 and Flipboard. Indeed, Flipboard was named “app of the year” by Apple – in 2010. With that much of a head start, and that kind of momentum, Yahoo faces an uphill battle. It brings with it a reputation for quality content that should help.

The Washington Post noted that Yahoo created Livestand to serve two purposes. First, the search engine hopes that the personalized magazine application will “keep its brand and services relevant as more people embrace the iPad and other mobile devices to consume digital content.” But more importantly, Yahoo hopes to gain the kind of information from user customization of the app that advertisers love. By learning users’ interests, “advertisers can target their messages at people most likely to buy their products,” the Post observed.

Yahoo will make money from Livestand by selling interactive advertising to be shown on the application, naturally. Next year, it also plans to sell subscriptions to publications, and gain revenue by taking a share of the proceeds.

Yahoo definitely plans to expand Livestand to other mobile platforms. It expects to be ready with a version for tablets running Windows 8 at the same time those tablets hit the stores, in about eight to eleven months. 

Yahoo chief product officer Blake Irving said that with Livestand, “we are getting closer to a truly ‘personal web’ for every Yahoo customer.” He also noted that “The window is still wide open for tablets…We are still in the very early stages.”

In addition to  Livestand, Yahoo also released IntoNow, an iPad app that can listen to the TV program you’re currently watching and recommend content, including news, Twitter posts, feature stories about shows, and more. It can even let you see what your friends are watching. Yahoo acquired the technology to create IntoNow when they purchased a company by the same name back in April. The application makes sense, especially since many people who own tablets multi-task with the devices while watching TV.

Will these new products save Yahoo? It’s hard to say; the company’s board of directors is reportedly examining its options, which include selling it off in whole or in part. Firms currently interested in purchasing the venerable search engine include Microsoft, Google, and Alibaba, in which Yahoo owns a substantial stake. But the Post observed that “If Yahoo remains independent, Livestand may become a key piece of Yahoo’s latest comeback attempt.” And Irving notes that despite the apparent chaos, those who work at Yahoo continue to be focused. “We still have dreams about what this company can be,” he said. How much of a chance those dreams have to come true in today’s rough economy, especially with Yahoo’s long sad history, remains to be seen.

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