By Annabel Parkinson, CubanEight @CubanEightPR @AnnabelFlora
When the news hit last week that 17 year old Nick D'Aloisio had sold his content curation app Summly to Yahoo for an estimated £18million I doubt there was a person in the country not thinking “well done” or “I hate you” – or a mixture of the two!
But jealously aside, this acquisition, and the huge amount of interest and coverage it resulted in for both D'Aloisio and Yahoo, allowed us a fascinating insight into how this type of move by the tech giant is helping it to position itself in a highly competitive marketplace.
It was great PR that gave Summly a kick-start in the first place. After developing the app his bedroom aged just 15 (!)Nick D'Aloisio went on to have Summly named one of Apple's best apps of 2012. This publicity resulted in investments from Horizon Ventures and some very impressive celebrities, said to include Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher and Yoko Ono, according to the Guardian – all great for further interest and publicity.
It was inevitably this type of visibility and buzz that contributed to Yahoo’s interest in and subsequent acquisition of the app in a deal rumoured be worth around £18million, but as usual in such deals unconfirmed by either side. The resulting coverage for both parties was undeniably huge, and one of the stories that seemed to get everyone talking – with Twitter exploding and the news hitting what seemed to be every news site and programme I saw that day.
There were reports that some of Nick D'Aloisio’s messaging wasn’t spot on and some of his interviews could have been slicker. But of course, one of the reasons this story was so appealing was that he wasn’t a perfectly polished media spokesperson but a 17-year-old school pupil. And this is where I think Yahoo has been quite clever in their positioning.
Prior to this, Yahoo was most recently making headlines with chief executive Marissa Mayer’s comments around the unsuitability of working from home. With the proliferation of mobile and cloud tech and modern-day working all tending towards making her view seem slightly backwards, these comments gave many the feeling that Yahoo perhaps isn’t as with the times or up-to-date as expected.
Plus, Yahoo’s slightly 90s brand and feel doesn’t give the company quite the innovative, fast moving image I suspect it really wants – and needs – to compete with the likes of Facebook and Google. While Googling has entered the common consciousness, and Google is locked in a battle with the Swedish Language watchdog over whether or not ‘ungoogleable’ is a word, I have never heard anyone say ‘I’ll Yahoo it’ – and as for ‘unyahooable’ – it just makes no sense at all!
For Yahoo, mobile is a major strategy as it tries to refocus what it does. With more of us accessing social sites and online media via smartphones and tablets that every before, mobile, is undeniably where it’s at, and Yahoo wants in.
So, for Yahoo, buying an innovative mobile app fronted by a 17-year-old who a lot of people can relate to was a very smart move. Not only have the media picked up on the everyman story of the schoolboy-turned-millionaire-internet-entrepreneur in a major way, they have also gone to great lengths to explain exactly what Summly is (a content curation app that helps make it easier to read and digest news on your mobile) and why Yahoo bought it (because it’s innovative and helps people, however they are consuming news and accessing the internet).
My take aways from this story were firstly, I’d never heard of it before, but Summly is very cool and I want it on my iPhone. Secondly, through this acquisition Yahoo has not only reminded a huge number of people that it’s a major player but also that it’s committed to innovation – basically if you think Summly’s good, just wait and see what’s coming next. Personally, if this is anything to go by I for one will be keeping a closer eye on what Yahoo has in store for the future.
Annabel is an account manager at PR agency CubanEight www.cubaneight.com
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