At Yahoo's CES keynote, Mayer is all entertainment

CEO Marissa Mayer puts Yahoo's mission to entertain front and center in her keynote address at CES 2014, dedicating the largest portion of time to forthcoming news projects and peformances by SNL comics and John Legend.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
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Screenshot by Kent German/CNET

Yahoo mission is to make the world's daily habits more inspiring and entertaining, CEO Marissa Mayer has often said. That goes for her CES keynote approach, too, apparently.

Mayer, speaking at the Las Vegas Convention Center where the Consumer Electronics Show is being held, dedicated a sizeable chunk of her keynote address to entertainment, including news projects like digital magazines that Yahoo will add to entertain users, as well as some live SNL schticks and a smooth Beatles rendition by John Legend.

Mayer announced the launch of News Digests, twice daily summaries of the days top news, and digital magazines like Yahoo Food and Yahoo Tech, the latter to be led by former New York Times columnist David Pogue.

The keynote also unveiled a new smart guide for Yahoo's Smart TV efforts.

As the keynote neared its closed, Mayer trotted out SNL cast members Cecily Strong and Keenan Thompson for a live Weekend Update. And taking a page out of Apple's book, Mayer recruited John Legend for a mini performance. Can't deny it's more lively than the typical CES presentation, where the height of excitements is an awkward teleprompter trainwreck courtesy of Michael Bay.

Screenshot by Kent German/CNET

Mayer kicked off her talk with a discussion of mobile, including an announcement that Yahoo has acquired smartphone-homescreen launcher Aviate, without disclosing terms of the deal. She noted that Yahoo has surpassed about 400 million monthly users on mobile.

Under Mayer's leadership, Yahoo has remodeled itself into a stronger competitor to Google and Facebook by giving businesses like mail, search, and other tech-focused products a fresh coat of paint, as well as the bigger push in mobile.

Mail, for one, has been criticized of late for a mail malware attack. Tuesday, Mayer said Yahoo Mail will now use SSL security.

During her time at Yahoo, Mayer has also made headline-grabbing moves, like the $1.1 billion acquisition of Tumblr and poaching of media bigwigs like Katie Couric and Pogue, who both made appearances during her keynote Tuesday. David Karp, the wunderkind behind Tumblr, made an appearance too, to discuss Tumblr sponsored ads now powered by Yahoo.

But so far, the jury is still out about whether Mayer's moves will work. After revenue fell 5% in the company's latest quarterly report, Mayer told investors that Yahoo needed more time to deliver a convincing turnaround.

Tuesday, Yahoo Senior Vice President Scott Burke joined Mayer on stage to rattle off a number of advertising ventures at Yahoo: Yahoo Audience, Yahoo Native Ads, Yahoo Ad Manager, Yahoo Ad Exchange.

We'll have to see if the ad moves help, as Yahoo's advertising revenue has slid while rivals' has risen. It better work, the company has to pay John Legend somehow.