Marissa Mayer's Awesome Content Strategy Fuels Yahoo! Optimism

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) --

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.

Pogue now works for Yahoo! ( YHOO) 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), 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 (which is what you might have done to view this article) 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.

It's not as valuable a habit to Yahoo! as it could be if you're in and out after you discover its going to be 75 degrees in Los Angeles again or the first pitch between the Yankees and Red Sox is at 1:05. Businesses appreciate customers who visit daily, not just when they have a craving or have thrown some money together.

Repeat visitors, buying more and more each time they come see you. That's what Mayer is after. And that's what I reckon she means when she refers to Yahoo! as a "daily habit."

Google has masterfully achieved this in its own way. In ways Mayer should not attempt to directly replicate at Yahoo! She's not going to spring another YouTube on the world. She can, however, assemble the type of talent folks come back for religiously -- people like Pogue -- across verticals.

If she does, not only can her salespeople make more creative and attractive pitches, but also more impactful ones. Content wins in the end. A good content strategy will take all of that traffic Yahoo! sees each month and turn it into more meaningful revenue. Something Wall Street likes to call profits.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
Rocco Pendola is a columnist and TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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