With update, Yahoo tries to ride popularity of mail app

Yahoo's mobile mail app has 110 million daily users across all devices, from desktops to tablets. The company hopes it can siphon some of those mobile eyeballs to other Yahoo properties, like Sports and Finance.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
3 min read

Richard Nieva/CNET

Yahoo on Tuesday launched an update to its email mobile app, which now gives users access to content from several of its properties ranging from Yahoo news to its weather and sports apps.

Under CEO Marissa Mayer, the company has invested in a number of areas, from news to artificial intelligence to online video. While Yahoo has its hand in more categories than ever, Tuesday's update is an attempt to siphon usage of its popular mail app to content from its widening collection of apps.

The company said it has 110 daily active email users, though that figure includes users on every device, including desktop computers. Yahoo would not break down the figures for mobile, but said its number of users has grown 15 percent over the last two quarters.

Two additions to the updated app, available for now on Apple's iPhone but not Google's Android operating system, are "news" and "today" tabs that appear at the bottom of the screen. Going to the news app shows you articles from Yahoo news, essentially replicating Yahoo's main mobile app.

The "today" tab is the real portal to Yahooland. There, a user sees widgets for the company's weather, finance, and sports apps, and News Digest app, which curates a collection of news stories with summaries. If users want to see more from a certain property, tapping on it opens up that app. For example, if you want to see more than just a few sports scores, tapping on it takes you to the Yahoo Sports app, where you can watch videos and read articles. (If you haven't downloaded that app, tapping on it sends you to an app store.)

The new "today" tab Yahoo

The move ties together Yahoo's disparate apps in an attempt to become more of a presence on mobile -- where an increasing amount of advertising dollars reside. While the company saw a 2 percent gain in display revenue last quarter -- a key metric for the company -- its core business has still been slow to grow.

During an earnings conference call earlier this month, Mayer said she was trying to shift the company's core to four areas: mobile, social, video, and native, referring to the type of ad that fits in more with editorial content than one that's clearly cordoned off. Of the four areas, she singled out mobile as the most important.

While Yahoo's efforts at mobile monetization have been met with fits and starts, by contrast, Facebook's have taken off. Last week, the company said it made 59 percent of its advertising revenue on mobile last quarter.

Within Yahoo's collection of properties, the update essentially elevates the Mail app to a higher tier. Will the update, then, cannibalize usage of Yahoo's other apps?

"To be honest, I don't know what's going to happen," said Fernando Delgado, a senior director of product management. "To be fair, what we're optimizing for is overall engagement of our whole portfolio."

The idea is that the mail app will be a natural gateway to Yahoo's other apps. Delgado's argument is that, for example, Yahoo Sports fans would have gone to that app anyway; this update just brings them there faster. But for those who get their daily sports fix simply from checking the scores, and not reading additional articles, this new integration might save some users a trip to the Yahoo Sports app -- and the ads that run inside it.

While the "news" tab shows the same ads you'd see if you opened the main Yahoo app, the "today" tab doesn't show ads at this time -- though Delgado didn't rule out the possibility in the future. If the company sees that the "today" tab is popular with users, it wouldn't be surprising to see Yahoo try to monetize it sooner rather than later.