Update: Yahoo preps 'digital newstand' for tablets and cell phones

Yahoo has announced a "digital newstand" called Livestand for tablet devices and cell phones that has been designed to deliver content from the company's various sites and online publications.

Livestand has been designed for portable devices, so that articles, photos, videos, graphics and ads are optimized for the screens and interfaces of mobile phones and tablet PCs, the company said Thursday.

Livestand will tailor content delivered to users based on a variety of factors, including their interests, their location and the time of day, and will draw from Yahoo properties like Sports, News, Finance, OMG and Flickr.

The platform will have embedded social media capabilities that publishers can take advantage of to engage readers and foster interaction among them, Yahoo said.

Livestand will be initially available as an application for Apple's iPad and Android tablet devices in the first half of this year. Versions for mobile phones and for browsers will be delivered later.

"Livestand brings the best of magazines and the best of the Web," said Irv Henderson, vice president of product management for Yahoo Mobile and Connected Devices, during a press conference.

Although Yahoo officials only showed Livestand featuring content from Yahoo properties during the press conference, they said the company is already working with an initial set of external publishers, whom they declined to name.

"It's a digital platform and we're its first customers," Henderson said.

Livestand will let publishers generate revenue both from advertising and from subscriptions.

The current user experience for publications on tablet devices leaves a lot to be desired for readers and advertisers, said Blake Irving, executive vice president and chief product officer for Yahoo.

Tablet versions of digital magazines and newspapers are "mostly PDFs" that aren't as engaging and interactive as they should be, Irving said.

Livestand has been designed to make content truly personalized and interactive, and advertising to combine the impact of television and the precision and richness of digital, he said.

"At Yahoo, we see tablets as a catalyst that will allow advertising dollars to shift from TV and print to digital," Irving said.

Yahoo has been working on the product for more than a year, and it has been designed to be "agnostic" to operating sytem platforms and devices, so that it can be deployed widely, officials said.

Although Yahoo is currently working with a select group of publishing partners, its long-term plans are to make Livestand available to publishers of all sizes, they said.

Gartner analyst Allen Weiner had been skeptical about Yahoo's ability to deliver a strong publishing platform for mobile devices, but after getting a demo of Livestand he gives it a thumbs up.

"It's a very logical extension of Yahoo's content strategy and a really good sign that Yahoo understands this future market opportunity," he said.

Weiner views Livestand as stronger and broader in scope than other tablet publishing applications, like AOl's Editions or The Daily from Apple and News Corp., Weiner said.

Livestand incorporates Yahoo communication products, like Mail and Messenger, and leverages the company's global infrastructure for delivering and personalizing content, he said.

"I was waiting for Yahoo to come up with a [digital publishing] solution for mobile devices, especially given that Yahoo has been slightly behind the curve in the world of mobile content, " Weiner said. "This looks like a strong effort to take advantage of that opportunity and in a very visually compelling way."

Now Yahoo needs to follow through on its vision and deliver on the promise. "There is a lot of promise here. Yahoo now has to show us some execution and bring together high-level partners," Weiner said.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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