PODTECH EXCLUSIVE - YAHOO! PODCAST MEDIA RELEASE
In another PodTech Podcast InfoTalk exclusive I sat down with Scott Gatz lead RSS manager and Ethan Diamond lead Yahoo! Mail manager to introduce via a Podcast the Yahoo! expanded RSS platform and RSS integration into Yahoo! Mail. Plus Yahoo! alerts - http://alerts.yahoo.com.
Bottom Line: This is good for users. Yahoo! has been working hard for the past year in understanding and integrating RSS into their online business. It’s clear that Yahoo! 2.0 is all about Web 2.0. It’s all about the consumer experience and open media. Yahoo! is leading in this area and taking RSS mainstream and participating in the emerging RSS community. Other key bloggers at the Yahoo! announcement in San Francisco include Dave Winer, Mike Arrington, Om Malik, and Steve Gillmor.
Full Transcript of the Yahoo! Podcast Interview:
Yahoo: Scott Gatz, Sr. Director - RSS & Personalization Platform and Ethan Diamond, Director Product Management - Yahoo! Mail
PodTech: John Furrier, Founder and CEO
John Furrier: Welcome to the PodTech.net InfoTalk exclusive Podcast with Yahoo’s announcement today…with RSS, Yahoo mail integration and alerts. Scott Gatz and Ethan Diamond. Welcome to the PodCast.
Yahoo (Scott Gatz and Ethan Diamond) Thank you.
John Furrier: What is the announcement? You have a lot of moving parts. Basically you are bringing RSS to the mainstream users. Making it easier for consumption and personalization. Getting stuff out there blogs, podcasts etc. What is the announcement about?
Scott Gatz: I’ll take a start John. This is Scott Gatz. When we set out to bring RSS into Yahoo…It has been over two years now. When we first launched RSS on My Yahoo in January of 2004, the goal was really to begin bring RSS to the masses, Making it really easy for consumers get any content they want from all over the Web and bring it all into one place. It has been an amazing progression to see. When we started some of the most popular RSS feeds were things like Slashdot and very tech oriented, but over the years we have seen that general consumers have taken to it, to the point where our research shows that about 31% of Internet users are using RSS whether they know it or not. It seemed like a natural progression. If we really wanted to provide users with what they want in one convenient package, to figure out how we more effectively integrate that across the Yahoo network. Where are the places that users want to see us integrate RSS? That is what we are really excited to talk about today is two new big launches where we have integrated RSS. The first is in our Alerts product. Our Alerts product At Alerts at Yahoo.com allows people to go and sign up and subscribe to real time alerts for all sorts of things — if a stock price reaches a certain limit, if your favorite sports team has won the game, it runs the gambit for all the different types of alerts you can get. Isn’t this a perfect place to integrate RSS? Wouldn’t it be amazing if any RSS feed on the Internet could be made into an alert? What if the moment an RSS feed were updated you can get an SMS alert to your mobile phone, you can an instant message alert in Yahoo messenger or maybe we can even send you an email…as those updates happen. Whether that’s a blog that you track… maybe the blog only posts once every three weeks or so. You don’t want to put that into your aggregate or you don’t want to put that in you’re my Yahoo page, you just want to get an email when that blog updates. WE can help you out there by signing up and we’ll send you that at the moment that it updates. Or maybe you want something a little more real-time. I live in California, so I think about the US Geological Survey. They put out an RSS feed that actually tells me when there are little earthquakes in the area. They actually put out warnings when they think “the big one is coming” I want to know about that and I want to know about that the moment that it happens. So for that alert, I am able to subscribe to that. The moment their RSS feed updates I have it set to give me an SMS message on my mobile phone. So no matter where I am, I able to know “the big one is coming”, not so far fetched.
John Furrier: So from earthquakes to any kind of information that is relevant to any user. Which is hard to figure out, but what you are doing here is you are basically saying to any user, “Whatever is important to you, we will make you aware of it in real-time”.
Scott Gatz: Absolutely. You are talking about the tens of millions of RSS feeds that are now out there having become INSTANTLY “alertable”. You can get alerts on any of them. You give us the RSS URL that you would like us to track, and the moment it is updated we can alert you by IM, SMS or email.
John Furrier: A lot of times when I am looking at blogs…and blogs and news in particular… are really an important part of this new shift with RSS and Web 2.0. A lot of times my life takes me out of the mode of being real-time. It is hard. I miss a lot. How are you guys looking at RSS from an alert standpoint? Do I have to be at my computer? Is this announcement going to be on platforms like mobile devices?
Scott Gatz: Absolutely. I think that is one of the things. There are some times where there is information when you are happy to go to your own personal page and check into it. But other times you want the information to come to you wherever you are at, and that is why we have integrated with Yahoo Messenger. You can get a pop-up while using Yahoo Messenger with the information that, “Hey, this feed is updated”. Or you can get it on your mobile phone via and SMS message. So no matter where you are at, we will help deliver that you in an easy and pretty simple way.
John Furrier: How do you figure out the Instant Messenger piece … with users who just want to talk to each other? Is this going to be interruptive to users?
Scott Gatz: Not at all. It will look just like any other Instant Message that you get through your messenger line. A window will come up and say, “Hey we’ve got a message for you, would you like to read it?” If so, you can click through and go over to the website and read the full information. It is a non-obtrusive way to get that information out to you.
John Furrier: So people can interact better with the content.
Scott Gatz: Absolutely.
John Furrier: Because they are alerted to it. You guys also talk about in the announcement, “Yahoo expands the RSS platform, adds RSS feeds into Yahoo Mail beta and Yahoo Alerts”, which you just talked about. Everyone in the industry knows that you have had RSS around for a while. Like HTTP the protocol that makes web-browsing in the early days of the web, RSS has been in Yahoo, My Yahoo… in with all three Yahoo. What specific extensions are you talking about around RSS? What does it mean to the users?
Scott Gatz: Yes, I think that ultimately different people want to consume content in different ways. Some people feel completely comfortable with having a personalized start page…like My Yahoo… getting headlines, getting their dashboard to their online life all on one page. But other people… maybe they are used to spending more time in their Yahoo Mail experience. We have 227 million unique users that use Yahoo Mail…that used it in the month of October. When you think about that large audience, of folks that feel comfortable in the email environment…we looked at that and said, “Well, if our goal is really to bring RSS to the masses, isn’t that where the masses are?” How can we bring the idea of personally relevant content to them where they are? (Which is email, which is where they feel comfortable.) Ethan and my teams have worked really closely together to actually figure out “how do we do that” and “how do we make Yahoo Mail the place to consume RSS?”
John Furrier: We are here with Ethan Diamond the Product Manager – Product Management for Yahoo Mail. Talk about Yahoo Mail. Everyone knows about mail; they have been using email. Email has been the killer app for the Web for years, but now it is getting more complex. There are news sites and there are blogs. There are RSS extensions. Most people look at their life through the email window (and IM) for the most part.
Ethan Diamond: True.
John Furrier: What are you guys doing with the Yahoo Mail in this announcement that is a little bit different, and how does RSS play in that?
Ethan Diamond: I think there are basically three reasons why you would want RSS integrated into your mail experience. The first one, you just hit on, is more and more people are using mail as the hub of their entire Internet experience. They sit in front of their email clients all day long. They get not just email, but photos from friends. They get favorite bookmarks or links from friends. So having news be a part of that and not making people leave their mail client is a good idea. It is natural. The second part of is that when you read a news story I think the most common activity you perform, besides sort of absorbing the information, is sharing it with friends. If you are inside a web browser it is always awkward to find or email this article link… if it exists at all. If you are inside of a stand alone RSS reader or aggregator, you don’t have your contacts there. Whereas, if you are inside your email client, you have got your entire address book. You can select a post and share it with a friend and have address auto complete, for example. That is something that is definitely part of this release. We can talk about it in a second. The third reason that I would say that it makes a whole lot of sense to integrate RSS right into a middle reader is that it is a familiar environment for people. We are not forcing anybody to go out and download and install a new application in order to get what RSS is and “give it a shot”. They are in an environment that they already “get”; they are in an interface that they already understand. What you will see when this rolls out is that RSS is just another folder in your folder list, essentially. When a feed contains new information it lights up, and you can click on it. You can read posts just like they were email.
John Furrier: So basically you are taking the experience from browsing…where readers are… and then websites (which is mostly blog content and news sites). So much information is coming at people. You are actually integrating into the mail client.
Ethan Diamond: That’s right. We are doing it in a way that I think that actually solves the problem of information overload…rather than making it worse. What we have done is rather than just feeding posts into your Inbox or feeding them into a folder as email, we present it in a way that is really familiar to people (from reading blogs). We show the full post in sort of a “blog view”. We detect whether a feed is a “blog style” feed…in which case we display it in one way. We also detect if is more of a “news summary”… kind of a “headline feed”… in which case we display it differently. That just makes the whole process of absorbing the information a whole lot easier. One other thing that we have done to make it easier to use RSS is … we have in addition to all of the feeds that you subscribe to… we have something called the “meta feed” or feed of feeds. It’s a river of news style aggregators. When you look at the application, all of your feeds are underneath a folder, essentially, that says “All our RSS feeds”. When you click on that it shows you, in reverse chronological order, an interlaced view… a news ticker type of view of each post of each feed that you subscribe to in the order in which it was published. What that allows me to do is now rather than looking at all of the feeds that I subscribe to and seeing which ones have lit up, and have new content… I keep that folder closed and I just look at “what is their content overall”…in all the feeds I subscribe to. I just click on that once and I read my feeds…the ones that I want to share with people. I click on them. I can forward those posts to friends as emails. I can even select those posts and drag them into folders. I can archive them, and then I can switch right back to my Inbox and keep reading my email. It is a very seamless experience. It is very natural for people who are familiar with the email interface to make the transition into this interface.
John Furrier: Basically what you guys are saying is that there is so much online content from so many different sources…there is so much diversity. On one end with the Alerts, you are making it convenient for people to get things in a timely manner… to interact with stuff that is important to them. Then on the Yahoo Mail side you are basically making it easier and saving time for people. People can spend their whole day reading blog posts.
Ethan Diamond: That’s right.
John Furrier: You are integrating into the mail client, because people have their attention there already?
Ethan Diamond: That’s right. They have their attention there and also ,… simply the idea of RSS itself. Instead of you having to go scan the ten websites that you are interested in for new content; it is just going to tell you when those sites publish new content. You end up saving time by not having to go out and find that information.
John Furrier: Yahoo is hardcore on RSS. Now it is going main stream. When can people get the Yahoo Mail beta? Is it available immediately? Where is the user experience going from a Yahoo perspective? Obviously, you are having mobile devices with the Alerts (and being convenient). What is the big picture in terms of where it is going next?
Ethan Diamond: Sure I can talk a little bit about the “when” for Yahoo Mail and then I’ll let Scott talk about the big picture. For “when” … tomorrow everyone who is a user of the Yahoo Mail beta will see RSS integrated into it. The actual date for when the Yahoo Mail beta will go GA, we don’t know, because we are actually in the process of doing a lot of testing of the interface in a lot of different areas. The actual date depends on the results of those tests. As part of this release, we are broadening the beta pool by quite a bit.
John Furrier: Okay great… and Scott the big picture on RSS? Obviously, you are taking something technical and making it main stream.
Scott Gatz: Absolutely. In all the steps we have been making…in the year 2005 we have launched something in the RSS area every month of this year. We see this as a nice way to begin to end the year… to bring RSS to the largest mainstream audience that there is… 227 million unique users on mail. This is the direction we want to be able to see going. We recognize that people consume RSS differently. Some want to read it on their mobile device, some want to read on their on personalized home page….in their Inbox, some want to be tapped on the shoulder when their feed has been updated, some want to read it on Yahoo news, and some people want to search through it. Some people want to do a little bit of all of that. The great thing about Yahoo is we learn about you, we learn about what sources you care about, and we integrate all of those pieces so they come together. If you are at your home computer, your work computer… on your phone, no matter where you are at… that information should follow you. It shouldn’t be tied to one computer… one software application. It should follow you wherever you go. That is the benefit of personalization on Yahoo… the idea that it knows who you are, it remembers those things and makes them easier and easier… as we integrate it throughout the entirety of Yahoo…wherever you want it to be.
John Furrier: We are here at a PodTech Exclusive announcement of Yahoo expanding their RSS platform… adding feeds into Yahoo Mail, offering Alerts… with Scott Gatz and Ethan Diamond. Final word to end the segment here about RSS and mail?
Scott Gatz: I hope that we have been able to layout, and I hope that everyone will have a chance to take a look at the steps we have made to really give a rich, robust experience around the whole concept of RSS. When we explain these benefits to consumers they really love the idea of being able to pull anything they care about all into one experience… the way they want it, when they want it. It has been exciting for us, and we hope that the consumers love it as well.
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