Yahoo Picks Up Speed With Alike Acquisition

In case investors have any doubts that Yahoo sees its future in mobile, events of the past few days should dispel them once and for all.

News surfaced Tuesday that Yahoo has acquired Alike, a mobile app that guides users to find nearby venues and places to visit. The acquisition was announced on Alike’s Web page. Among the few details provided: It will no longer service the Alike Nearby iPhone and Web apps.

Also on Tuesday, CEO Marissa Mayer sketched out her vision for Yahoo at an investors conference hosted by Goldman Sachs. She plans to focus on the applications people use most often on their mobile devices.

There are about a dozen of these apps, including email, search, news, finance and sports. The goal is to make the 200-million monthly active Yahoo users as sticky and as lucrative for advertisers as possible — and, of course, to increase their numbers with better and better offerings.

A Positive Face for Yahoo

Since attaining the top slot at Yahoo, Mayer has been impressing investors and even winning over company detractors with her forthright statements about its strengths and weaknesses — as well as her single-mindedness in turning the company around.

Mayer’s comments at the investor’s conference were not exactly new — mobile has clearly been a focus of Yahoo for some time — but she reinforced the perception that Yahoo is finally on the right track by providing more details about how the company will achieve its goals.

The same can be said of the Alike acquisition. While it probably doesn’t constitute a huge financial transaction — the terms were not announced — it’s one of a growing number of deals that have bought Yahoo much-needed functionality.

In January, it acquired, a scrapbooking site similar to Pinterest. It bought OnTheAir, a mobile-oriented video chat platform, in December. Yahoo also acquired Stamped — an application that lets smartphone users grade films, restaurants and other interests — on Mayer’s watch.

What Yahoo Stands For

In short, Mayer has successfully defined what Yahoo stands for — a feat that previous CEOs were unable to achieve as they got bogged down in trying to compete in online advertising and search. Now Yahoo can be summed up in a few words: It’s where you can get personalized everyday content.

Toward that end, it is a clear positive that Mayer plans to trim the current 60-to-75 mobile apps Yahoo offers to a more manageable 12 to 15, Covestor Model Manager Eric Steiman told the E-Commerce Times.

“Although less diverse, each app will aim to become a better use for our daily lives. Everyone checks mail, weather, sports, finance, news, gossip, videos and photos. Yahoo has strong brands in each of those properties and will look to monetize them on the growing mobile network,” he said.

“Yahoo is picking up speed, and Marissa Mayer is the driving force behind this,” Andreas Scherer, managing partner with Salto Partners, told the E-Commerce Times. “She has defined Yahoo’s core business in a simple way.”

Having a sophisticated mobile strategy is a critical part of this vision of personalized content, he said, as smartphones offer information about time and location, along with user preferences, and the mobile Internet allows new ways to combine relevant content with smart advertising.

The Alike acquisition will boost Yahoo’s mobile presence, Scherer added, while bringing some oomph to its fledging social media creds, as users can share preferences on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Alike could well serve as a focal point of Yahoo’s future strategy, he suggested.

“Along with this acquisition comes the inevitable cleanup of past attempts to compete in the mobile arena,” Scherer pointed out. “The company has in total more than 60 apps. The Alike acquisition could be the turning point that brings a promising new technology and new talent into the company.”

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