Core competencies

The theme of this year’s Industry Outlook event, to be held by Informa this month, is partnerships. With that in mind spoke to Ken Hart, senior director of business development at Yahoo, who is responsible for driving partnerships in the mobile area in Europe, Middle East and Africa for consumer internet services and mobile advertising.

Historically, Yahoo Mobile was a separate division of the company, but was folded into the main business about 18 months ago as Yahoo no longer sees mobile as a separate vertical. Indeed, all Yahoo properties now have mobile element to them, Hart says. Yahoo’s mobile homepage is currently available in 38 countries on more than 2,000 devices and the firm has partnerships with more than 100 mobile carriers and OEMs globally, including Apple, RIM, AT&T, Nokia, Telefónica and America Movil.

Hart spearheaded partnerships with Telefónica Spain, T-Mobile International and O2 Germany, where Yahoo displaced Google as the default search provider on those on carriers’ portals. But he tends to shy away from exclusivity deals, in favour of becoming the default provider, as it’s just too easy for the consumer to change such details.

“We may be the default provider for something, but users can always change or alter, so it makes less sense to have exclusive deals. Yahoo has always been well positioned and always considered that mobile would be part of the consumer lifestyle. The same brands you see on your mobile are the same as those that you see on your PC and the same advertisers too. Sure you have to optimise for mobile devices or create applications, but we really see mobile as an extension of the digital lifestyle and as an extension of digital advertising,” he says.

“There are different types of partnership, some of which cut across several layers. There’s the more traditional partnerships concerning reach like the one we have with Samsung, which pre-integrates services into the handset. That’s just about reach, whereas the partnership with Nokia cuts across product, content and reach, using Navteq maps while they in return use Yahoo Mail to power the Ovi services.”

And in a world where boundaries are blurring, especially those between the telecom and internet world’s and those between the manufacturers and service providers, Yahoo prides itself on maintain a simple proposition.

“Yahoo’s position is very clear – we’re not in the app store space, were not in the OS space, were going to remain as a consumer brand with a whole range of services and we’re going to advertise to those spaces. We have a clear strategy,” Hart says. “Product partnerships only make sense when you stick to your core competencies. Around 620 million people use Yahoo worldwide and we know advertising,” he says.

Ken Hart is speaking at the Industry Outlook event, November 25

So what role does Hart see the carrier’s playing? “Some carriers are still dabbling in the portal space but over the coming years we will see less and less of that,” he says. “Operators have a role to play as a smart pipe, leveraging the billing relationship, customer data, leveraging their brands and customer service.

“Carriers are rolling out LTE now, which is an order of magnitude greater in terms of bandwidth and capacity and you have new devices coming along, such as tablets, so Yahoo is focusing on developing great new consumer services for these devices and new forms of advertising on top of these of course.”


Listen to the audio interview with Ken Hart, head of business development at Yahoo


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