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Yahoo Finance getting in on the real-time game

Thanks to the ever-vigilant Felix Salmon (he’s a hawk, actually) who tweeted a job opening at Yahoo Finance.

From the job posting:

We’re looking for an experienced, versatile, high-motor blog editor specializing in business news targeted at both sophisticated and mass-market audiences. The successful candidate will write and report his or her own stories, as well as hire and manage a small team of professional bloggers to curate and create original content for the largest audience on the Web. This person will set the strategy for and oversee the publication of financial blog content for programming on Yahoo! Finance, the Yahoo! network and consumption on the Web at-large.

The move in context

So, like Forbes which recently announced its intentions and strategy to unload its Investopedia property and embark on a more real-time blogging/curating model, Yahoo Finance is moving towards its own real-time financial content aggregation model.  Whether you agree with Fobes’ decision or not (and Paul Carr most certainly doesn’t calling it the “death of a thousand hacks”), Yahoo Finance’s move is different.

Forbes and Forbes.com have always been about content.  Forbes has always employed professional editors in a mixed outside-inside model for content, blending its own staff reporters with content contributed from asset managers and thought-leaders in their field.  Never known for its ability to break stories, Forbes really was about highlighting interesting opinions from experts in their verticals.

But Yahoo is different than Forbes

Yahoo Finance is a different animal.  While Yahoo Finance hasn’t changed much in the past 10 years (much to my chagrin), this move changes its tack.  Remember, Yahoo Finance, as a giant financial portal, has always been about aggregation of both data and information, taking feeds from tens of information and content providers.  By the way, check out ValueCruncher’s CEO’s, Mark Clare, great breakdown of Yahoo Finance, its past, its business and potential to disrupt providers like Bloomberg in the future.

Yahoo Finance is still the 800-lb gorilla in online finance as evidenced by its majority of traffic in the online finance category (see graph to the right). What’s made Yahoo Finance so strong was an early-mover advantage and a site that just worked quickly and had enough information on it to act as a proxy for a research terminal (Why Google Finance still sucks at its news offering is beyond me).  With a deal it consummated with Seeking Alpha in 2007, Y! Finance dipped its big toe into the wild and woolly financial blogosphere.  Now, with the job posting mentioned above, it appears that Yahoo Finance is changing its strategy.

How this may play out

This is a risky strategy.  In essence, the financial portal is pitting itself opposite all its content partners — many of whom pay the portal for the firehose of traffic it throws off.   I’d be less willing to partner with a company that is introducing a product to compete directly with mine.  And this is a common problem with channel marketing for any platform — and Yahoo Finance is certainly a finance platform — in that the platform, given where it sits in the whole matrix of supply-demand, can always just mimic other offerings that are working.  This is the fear of developing any tools that work on Twitter of Facebook – that the social media platform can quickly just put you out of business.

Such is the life now for Yahoo Finance content partners.  If (and this is a big IF) the Yahoo Finance offering is a combination of serious, professional editorial oversight with smart curation with a good understanding of what’s important to Y! Finance readers (a-la Abnormal Returns) with thought-evoking and decision-supporting articles, Yahoo Finance can evolve itself from a financial resource to a must-see, must-read site for both individual and institutional investors.

What if it doesn’t work

If, however, Yahoo Finance doesn’t do this right and takes a half-assed, half-baked approach, the results could be pretty serious: both for the company/site and for content, in general.  As Steve Lubetkin argued with me yesterday in the comments on PRNewser’s article Is Steve Rubel the Future of Forbes, aggregation using free, contributed — outside content — risks turning everything into an “echo chamber” where the biggest voices (those voices appearing everywhere) drown out newer, more creative content by people who take content creation really seriously.  If Yahoo Finance’s own content offering isn’t managed well, it could cause other partners to leave the site, taking their money and their contribution to the estimated few hundred million dollars in annual revenue Yahoo Finance generated.

What this all  means for aggregation sites?  We’ll have to see how it plays out.   There’s most likely room for multiple aggregators if they end up focusing on slightly different readerships (a retirement investors reads different content than a day trader).