Why we're not afraid of Yahoo!

One of the criticisms I most commonly hear as I’m evangelizing our business plan goes something like this:

Yahoo! is going to automate and aggregate local content from blogs and Yahoogroups and will therefore be able to deliver all the local content and search you could ever want — and without having to spend a dime.

Anyone who’s actually worked in a local media outlet knows that this is a pipedream — at least the part about not spending a dime. I’ve yet to see anyone aggregate local meaninfully, and seriously doubt that anyone can do so without putting human hands, eyes and ears to the task.

The fact is that getting comprehensive local events, news and information takes work and feet on the street. And anyone who’s ever subscribed to a Yahoogroup (only a relatively small percentage of which are local) knows that there’s a signal-to-noise problem that no algorithm can overcome.

And on the advertising front, there are hordes of local businesses who don’t do business on the web. The only way to really get to them today is in person.

Don’t get me wrong– Yahoo! has a tremendous audience and is doing a lot of smart things. I hope that we’ll eventually be a partner of theirs. And if they do a good job of aggregating local, we’ll help folks find that, and maybe remix it to serve more hyperlocal individual interests.

But unless and until they put content and advertising feet on the street, there’s a large part of the local market they’re going to miss. That’s not something I’ve seen in any discussion of their short-term plans. Nor, frankly, should it be.

In the meantime, we’ll happily serve that unserved market — and a byproduct will be better service for all local readers and businesses.

Mike Orren is the Chief Product Officer of The Dallas Morning News; President of Belo Business Intelligence; husband to Crystal Orren; and a Mungarian at Munger Place Church in Dallas, TX. All opinions herein are mine alone.