Mobile a top priority for Yahoo in 2013, Mayer says

Like Facebook and Google, Yahoo sees mobile as essential to its future

Yahoo wants to accelerate its development of mobile products geared toward delivery of personalized content, CEO Marissa Mayer said Tuesday, as the company works to stay relevant in a world where smartphones and tablets are becoming dominant.

How Yahoo will accomplish that goal is not immediately clear -- it has yet to announce any specific mobile apps or services it has in the pipeline -- but it was an objective oft-repeated during the company's first-quarter earnings call.

But if the "how" is not clear, the "why" is more evident. Mobile is top of mind for all Internet firms, Google and Facebook included, and mobile will be crucial to Yahoo's efforts to increase user engagement and expand advertising revenue.

By 2015, Yahoo expects more people to be accessing the Internet on mobile devices than on PCs. "This is a tremendous opportunity for us, and we're working hard to take advantage of it," Mayer said.

Yahoo's earnings for the quarter were US$390 million, up 36 percent from last year, but revenue was down. Continuous improvements to Yahoo's products "will set up the company for long-term growth," the company said earlier Tuesday.

Yahoo is already making some progress in mobile. In the first three months of 2013, the number of monthly, mobile active users on Yahoo surpassed 300 million for the first time, Mayer said. That's up from 200 million reported in its last earnings call in January.

The number of daily active users on Yahoo-branded apps like Mail and Flickr also increased by more than 50 percent during the quarter, the company said. On Flickr, mobile photo uploads increased by more than 50 percent quarter over quarter.

"Our early results in mobile are promising," Mayer said, "and there is a lot more in store for mobile in the coming months."

Yahoo continues to face pressure to demonstrate its value to users, as more people flock to social networks like Twitter and Facebook and to an array of social apps on smartphones. Yahoo currently does not have any social network or mobile phone of its own.

To develop its yet-to-be-announced lineup of mobile products, Yahoo appears to be just as interested in acquisitions as in-house development, if not moreso.

Its recent purchase of Alike, a location discovery app, as well as Jybe, an app for recommending places and things based on user preferences and social networking sites, were cited by Mayer as two important deals for the company.

Last month Yahoo also acquired Summly, a London-based company that developed an app for condensing information and making it quickly readable on mobile devices.

"Beyond building great user experiences of our own, we're looking at smart acquisitions," Mayer said. "We're going to continue to be strategic and selective ... for acquisitions that we can integrate quickly and easily into our business," she said.

Acquisitions for talent, or "acquihires," are also on the table, the company said, when pressed by analysts to explain whether it would develop new products internally as well.

Yahoo did suggest that its mobile apps and services will be closely aligned with the top things people already do on their mobile devices: Checking email, the weather and news; getting sports scores; playing games; sharing photos; group messaging; and getting financial or stock information.

"That's almost in exact correlation with Yahoo's business and product line," Mayer said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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