Yahoo7 rethink: How Verizon acquisition and Seven’s plans will affect content offering

Yahoo7 director of content Simon Wheeler talks strategy

The last six months have been hectic for the global internet company Yahoo with it finding a new owner in the American telecommunications company Verizon.

The ramifications of this deal on the Yahoo-Seven West Media joint venture in Australia, Yahoo7, have not been fully realised just yet.

However, Yahoo7 has been going through some significant changes in its own right. The first one came when Seven West Media’s publishing arm Pacific Magazines took back the digital rights in-house for its magazines in the first quarter of 2016. As an answer to the content void left by this move, Yahoo7 launched its lifestyle website, Be.

“It gave us the opportunity to publish the stories that we wanted to and when we wanted to,” Yahoo7’s director of content Simon Wheeler told Mediaweek. “It has proved successful. The page views are up 20%, video views are up 400% year-on-year, and users are up 55%.

“Both sides of the joint venture agreed it was the right thing to do. Once it was clear that that was going to be the decision, my priority was to prepare us for what came next. It was challenging in that there was a lot of work to do, but Yahoo had decided quite early on to launch our own brand where we could really promote and grow the brand.”

Wheeler joined Yahoo7 in 2015 as the head of editorial. Speaking about the difference between his previous role and the one he holds now, Wheeler said: “In the previous role, I was mainly in charge of our local publishing media brands such as Seven News, Seven Sport and Be. That has now widened to TV. So I am not only looking after the digital side for the TV properties, but also Plus7 [Seven’s catch-up platform]. Being a part of the executive team here, I am more involved in making sure that we are prepared for all the inevitable changes that this industry throws at you.”

Following the acquisition of Yahoo by Verizon in the US, Seven West Media released a statement earlier this year revealing its intentions to launch a fully owned catch-up TV service to replace Plus7, which is jointly owned by the two companies. The replacement catch-up service from Seven will run all of the broadcast company’s content.

This effectively means that Yahoo7 will have to work out how to fill the content void by assessing how it can serve its Australian audience by leveraging content from other media properties under the Oath portfolio.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” Wheeler said. “The executive team and I have been charged with looking into our options now with regards to the global content that is available to us.”

How Yahoo7 will take advantage of Verizon owning one of the biggest digital news and media properties in the world, The Huffington Post, “is unclear”, Wheeler said. This matter is complex owing to the fact that The Huffington Post already has a presence in the local market in the form of HuffPost Australia as a joint venture with Fairfax Media.

This is an excerpt of the full article, which appears in the latest issue of Mediaweek magazine. 

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