It's not just about relevance; it's about creating meaning
Editor's Note: On Wednesday, Yahoo! Chief Product Officer, Blake Irving, gave a rousing presentation at the Adobe Digital Marketing Summit in Salt Lake City. Among other things, Blake talked about the personal future he envisions for the Web and how it will benefit users, publishers and advertisers alike. Here is a concise version of his opening remarks.
I see a future where deeply personal digital experiences are easy to discover, delightful to consume, and effortless to share. If done right, it will transform the way people use the Web. When I say "deep personalization," I don't just mean some preference controls; I mean content that is so timely, relevant and personal that it actually adds meaning to your life.
The Web you know today is a Web at your command—and it does a pretty good job answering your command. Today I search, I browse, I share—and it's all OK. But there's not a lot of meaning there, and any meaning I find is either fully serendipitous or come from a real effort undertaken on my part. Today the Web gives us relevance, but relevance and meaning are not the same thing. Yogis don't go to mountaintops looking for relevance, the go looking for meaning. Relevance and meaning are different—as different as the next Web will be from the Web we have today.
In future, I see a Web that acts on my behalf, one that finds content and connections for me and presents it to me in context—aware of my location, my activity, my social situation, my economics and my most timely considerations. I see a Web where trust and transparency are the price of entry for publishers and technology providers, and where relationships are understood and cherished—on both sides of the connection.
Yahoo! engages hundreds of millions of users every month with killer content, but has just scratched the surface when it comes to delivering real meaning for individuals. Most of the premium content that people want is spread all over the Web—or stuck in print. In fact, it takes a ton of effort for users to discover good content—it's in silos, it's in many formats, and each publisher is following their own economic model, making it hard for users to get just what they want, when they want it.
Content in context that comes to you
If the technology economic model is done right, the best content will just come to me, and it will be as diverse and nuanced as I am—and as you are. It's not about vague categories of interest—cars, sports, technology, advertising, whatever. It's about just the content I'd go out to find if I had the time and resources do it manually. It's down there in the tail of the Web. And, even more so, it's down in the torso of the Web—where there are economics at play, albeit a model that is mostly broken.
There is no question that the Web will become deeply personal. The question is who, when all's been said and done, will make it happen. Yahoo! is already a leader in digital media, with great communications and search experiences too. My personal goal has been to tap in to all that's great about Yahoo! today (and there's a ton) to make something transformational on the Web tomorrow.
I challenge you to consider the part that you will play—as technologists, tool builders, publishers, content providers, and as advertisers. Together we can build something truly incredible.
— Blake Irving
Blake Irving is Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at Yahoo!. Prior to Yahoo!, Blake served as a Professor of Business at Pepperdine University Graduate School and Corporate Vice President of Online Platform Services at Microsoft.