Yahoo's Semel talks new, new media

At Web-related confab, CEO shares thoughts on 21st century media companies, Yahoo's struggle with Google, other topics.

Elinor Mills
Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
2 min read
At a Web-related confab Thursday, Yahoo CEO Terry Semel shared his thoughts on everything from 21st century media companies to his company's struggle with Google to the ethics of doing business in a communist country.

At the Web 2.0 Conference 2005, sponsored by Yahoo, Google, MSN Search and others, Semel said Yahoo is blazing a trail as a new kind of new-media company, rooted in technology and committed to distributing traditional media and new types of user-generated content that invite interactivity.

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Yahoo's CEO talks about plans to improve search technology.

"In the 20th century, media was about content and distribution," he said in a formal "conversation" session. Now "to be a media company, technology is at the core."

"I see us as a 21st century technology company that drives great media," he said. Yahoo wants to "help design the future of what content may be on the Internet."

As an early Internet portal, Yahoo began licensing and aggregating content from media partners, including news agencies and wire services. Yahoo News and Yahoo Finance became two of the more popular Web sites for breaking news and financial information.

This year, Yahoo has pushed hard to get involved in community-based content, created by and shared among individuals. Yahoo launched its 360 blogging service and acquired the Flickr photo-sharing service. This week, Yahoo said it acquired social-events calendar site Upcoming.org.

Recently, Yahoo also has made deals with columnists and a prominent journalist to write articles for posting on Yahoo.

There will be some areas where Yahoo competes with its traditional content partners, Semel said. For example, he said, Yahoo users may prefer to get travel information such as user recommendations on holiday locales from people within their online social network, rather than from a travel Web site like Expedia.

Yahoo's strategy to compete with Google, Semel said, is to keep the heat up on search technology and to continue to bolster the breadth of services and content it offers its 400 million users.

Noting that Google has a number of services in beta, such as Gmail, with fewer customers than competing Yahoo services, Semel said Google is "starting to look like a portal" and "as a portal, they would probably be rated No. 4...We have a much more diversified model."

Asked to comment on the criticism Yahoo received for providing information that helped the Chinese government convict a journalist accused of leaking state secrets, Semel said companies doing business in China and other foreign countries are subject to the laws of that land.

"It's both a moral issue and a legal issue...Sometimes, on a personal level, I wince," he said. However, "everyone (living in China) knows the law, and everyone operating (businesses) in those countries knows the law."