Yahoo did not set out to be in the news business — it ended up there by default. It was delivering useful apps to consumers long before there was an iPad. Early excellence in search and e-mail generated a huge realm of users. Its ability to help consumers use data led to remarkable success in its finance and fantasy sports portals, which generated huge, loyal comment groups.
Eventually, Yahoo began feeding its audience bare headlines on news it bought from The Associated Press. It added pictures and began making other content-sharing agreements, while adding its own journalists over time.
Yahoo Sports was the prototype for what the company hoped would be a broader play in proprietary news. The money from fantasy sports bought must-read bloggers doing timely work in various verticals, deep investigative projects and big-name columnists.
But sports turned out to be the exception. Because Yahoo’s journey to being a news site was somewhat inadvertent, there was no comprehensive policy for developing content. Yahoo became a series of editorial fiefs — there are dozens of separate subject areas — all competing for attention from the front page with little cooperation or standardization among them. And when you have that much internal traffic to play with, any harebrained programming idea can look like genius just because it received some love from the giant home page.