Using its vast knowledge of how people use the Internet, Yahoo Inc. knows what’s hot. Now the online giant is trying to capitalize on that knowledge by building websites dedicated to the 100 hottest entertainment brands.
The effort aims to leverage the popularity of franchises such as Nintendo Co.'s Wii video game console or NBC’s sitcom “The Office” to draw fans to Yahoo’s stable of sites. The company hopes advertisers will follow the fans.
Most of the brands selected by Yahoo already have their own websites. But what sets this project apart is that Yahoo is using other companies’ products to promote its own -- with or without the cooperation of those companies.
“We’d like to work with brand owners,” said Vince Broady, Yahoo’s head of games, entertainment and youth properties. “But we don’t necessarily need the brand owners to do this.”
The branded channels come at a time when Yahoo is under increasing pressure to make better use of the plethora of services and functions it offers. The new strategy is called “brand universe,” which uses the information Yahoo has at its disposal to figure out what brands Yahoo users like.
“We know in seven days or less if a song is not going to be a hit,” said David Goldberg, head of Yahoo Music. The company shares this information -- called “pulse data” -- with content companies such as record labels.
In November, Yahoo launched a site for Nintendo’s Wii video game player. The site, wii.yahoo.com, aims to be a central depository of all things Wii. It has attracted an audience of 1.2 million unique viewers, the company said.
For the Wii-obsessed, it offers pictures by Yahoo’s Flickr photo service and links to articles and blogs about Wii. The Wii site will be “pushed” to places on Yahoo where Wii fans might be, Broady said.
Yahoo filled the site with materials culled from within Yahoo -- such as photos, video, message groups and shopping -- as well as links to non-Yahoo sites.
The company said that if a brand owner objects to a site, Yahoo will take it down.
Based on its own statistics Yahoo chose 100 brands by deciding which had the most passionate audiences in the demographics it was looking for. Brands won’t be able to lobby to get into the top 100 list. But Yahoo executives said they might create similar sites for other companies.
Yahoo said it was working on sites for the computer game “The Sims,” TV shows “Lost” and “The Office,” and the Harry Potter series of books and movies. The company declined to give a launch date for the new sites. Information on other brands will be released in February, company executives said.
Analysts said that although the idea for Yahoo brand sites had potential, its success depended on execution.
“It’s got to look like a TV show, not a newspaper or a collection of websites,” said Mike Vorhaus, senior vice president and managing director at Frank N. Magid Associates, a media consultancy. “It all depends on promotion. If they promote it on the front page, it gets huge traffic.”
TV shows and movies already have fan pages where visitors can watch video or chat endlessly, said Mike McGuire, vice president of research at Gartner, a technology research company in San Jose.
“Is this something that some will add to their daily Wii habit?” he said.
“I would think for hard-core Wii folks, they have their chat boards. But for a new fan, it may be useful.”