Community News

Gorkana meets...Yahoo! UK

1 May 2015

Gorkana catches up with some of the Yahoo! UK team on how PRs can help with access, thinking about globally shareable content and why they're big fans of cake.

Simon Garner is news editor and has been at Yahoo! for three and a half years, spent five years at Metro, and did a stint at MailOnline before that. At Yahoo! he’s responsible for its news pages, stories, finance and car content. He is also responsible for Yahoo News Digest in the UK, working closely with the US and Singapore teams.

Julia White is head of showbiz and social media and has been at Yahoo! for four years, joining to launch its celebrity offering, which was then omg! and is now Yahoo! Celebrity. During her time there, she has also covered lifestyle and, more recently, taken a social focus, working with Yahoo!’s international social team on best practice and key ways of delivering social globally.

Natasha Bird is head of lifestyle and her remit covers fashion, beauty, parenting, travel wellbeing, heath, food and sex. Since joining Yahoo! last April, she has launched a bloggers’ academy to help propel young fashion and beauty bloggers and further their careers. The Lifestyle team is currently working with its counterparts in the US to launch a new digital style magazine offer.

James Dickens is head of sport and has been at Yahoo! for 10 years, holding various roles before being made head of sport. He started his career heading up several football websites before moving onto video content, and was originally brought into Yahoo! to lead its music video offering. When Yahoo! launched its Premier League Highlights three years ago, he joined the sports team.

James manages Yahoo!’s editorial relationship partnership with Eurosport, commissions content from that, and works on the sports section’s fantasy offering to readers. He is seen as de facto head of global football at Yahoo! because of the strength of the Premier League in the UK.

Yahoo! reach

Yahoo! currently has one billion users globally, both on desktop and mobile. Yahoo! News is the most visited commercial news site in the UK. Only the BBC, which is not commercial, has more visitors. Yahoo! Finance is the third most popular finance site in the UK. Yahoo! Mail is the third most popular mail provider in the UK.

The sports section attracts around 2.2 unique users per month, with main commercial competitors seen as MailOnline and Sky Sports.

Yahoo!’s strength lies in covering big global events. It was the biggest site for the World Cup and the Olympics.

Yahoo! lifestyle content tends to sit at around six million UUs and 50 million page views. It’s difficult to identify competitors as its content goes in so many different directions.

When Yahoo! launched its new showbiz site, it shot straight up to number three in the celebrity entertainment category. Indentifying competitors here is also difficult. Yahoo! Entertainment has two audiences: mainstream, readers coming to the site through the home page; and millennial readers reaching the site via social.

While many brands claim to be mobile first, Yahoo! can say this with conviction, says Simon. More of the site's readers reach it via mobile, rather than desktop. 600 million monthly active users now come through to the site via a suite of apps.

Yahoo! News Digest

Yahoo! News Digest came about after the company bought Summly, a summarisation app created by then 16-year-old Nick D'Aloisio. Nick now works with Yahoo! in the UK and US, as well as studying at Oxford.

It delivers bite-sized news twice a day to people’s phones – once in the morning and once in the evening, to correspond with commute times. Simon describes it as “a bit like a digitised version of Metro”.

The Digest is split into ‘Atoms’, five or six sentences that give the nub of a story, statistics, maps, Wikipedia entries, long reads and sources. It’s very easy to use, identifies trends and brings together text in a compelling way.

While Simon won’t reveal the number of app downloads, he said the figure is “stunning” and the repeat visit stats are most pleasing. It has 40% retention of users, which is way above industry averages. Ratings in the app store have also been very positive, and the US team has just released an iWatch app, which connects to Yahoo! News Digest. It will soon be available in the UK.


The showbiz team covers pretty much everything in the world of celebrity.

Mainstream TV content (i.e X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent) is always very popular. British celebrities like Katie Price and Katie Hopkins carry mainstream appeal and stories about them will get a huge click-through rate. These celebs, coupled with stories on the Kardashians, Kelly Brook and Kerry Katona (all the “Ks” as Julia says), always make for the most popular stories.

Often the best stories come off the back of something that is already trending. The team is keen to talk about what’s being talked about and will jump on the back of a story to take it forward.

The team also aims to target its millennial fan-base, who will be more likely to use social to access Yahoo! content. They are more likely to be “super fans” of a certain band or singer/songwriter. The team is keen to tap into this, whether it be stories on One Direction or 5 Seconds of Summer, or up-and-coming artists or YouTubers who are starting to catch on.

The mix of content is quite vast and often a story will be purely picture-based. Julia is constantly looking for video opportunities. She is also always looking for key news line and tries to lead socially when it comes to interview techniques. The perfect story would tick the mainstream box, while at the same time, get super fans excited. A good example came last year when the team interviewed One Direction about the various naked picture scandals around them, while also playing a game that tapped into the “fan insanity”.


Yahoo! is usually the leader in content about Kate Middleton. When there’s a lot of activity around her, Yahoo! stats will skyrocket.

Natasha said the team faces the challenge of needing to be everything you’d find in a women’s magazine, but online. The focus this year has been to be more digitally minded, with an emphasis on viral, what’s trending and up-and-coming.

Because of this, the team launched a new trending blog called In Case You Missed It (ICYMI). The team watch the wires and social very closely to find out what’s beginning to be talked about, and then take what they find to the next level with an opinionated longer read on ICYMI.

Both Natasha and Julia are keen to cross the divide between the blogosphere and traditional news. While bloggers may not have trained as journalists, their passion for their chosen field can provide excellent content, in partnership with the Yahoo! team. Working with Yahoo! gives brands a much bigger scope for creative content solutions mostly because of the “Yahoo! machine” and all is offers.

Yahoo! Style in the US has just a launched a new platform that is visually stunning, says Natasha. It’s totally different to what’s on offer in the UK at the moment, and is led by a team with magazine backgrounds from VOGUE and ELLE, etc. They’ve seen a very positive uptake, which has led to Yahoo! deciding to expand this across the world, including the UK in the next few months.


James is keen to get more experts involved with sports content. Football drives 85% of sports traffic to the site, so that is the main focus. He will be announcing new football ambassadors in the next month or two around a site relaunch in August.

Cricket content is also growing on the site, with a large ex-pat community in India. James will also be announcing some rugby ambassadors ahead of the rugby World Cup in September.

There is a contributor network that works particularly well with sport content, says James. If you’re a Scunthorpe FC fan, you’re not going to get the quality of content about the team on a site as big as Yahoo!. But, if the team can get two or three Scunthorpe fans to write passionately for them each week, it will surface top in a personalised search.

Working with PRs

The team all have great relationships with PRs and rely on them for help with content.

Yahoo! readers are always looking for something different and which is exclusive, especially when it comes to showbiz. Access is one of the most important ways PRs can help the team. Julia wants exclusive time with somebody who is creating a lot of conversation at that particular time. She has had great relationships with brands who have brought on board a celebrity. The team is happy to ask interesting questions about the product they are promoting to make sure the interview works for the brand as well as Yahoo!. She is always trying out new interview formats and recently launched a ‘six second interview’, where a celebrity is interviewed on Vine and then the content is pushed out via multiple platforms.

Access is important to the sports team as well. James sees PR releases as a great source of information because he can’t know what’s going on everywhere all the time. Getting access to brands and their founders often makes for a brilliant story he wouldn’t have secured if he wasn’t contacted by a PR.

James tries to reply to every PR email he gets and is keen to create dialogue. Even if one sell-in doesn’t quite work for him, the next one might.

Simon also likes the way PRs are starting to think about how newsrooms work. If a PR can stay on what’s trending and use what they’re pitching to identify what the leading stories are that particular week, they’re on to a winner. It’s the perfect way to make a pitch relevant and grab his attention.

He also thinks good relationships with brands is key. One of his favourite pieces of content was a partnership with the Sony World Photography Awards after Sony approached the team and gave them exclusive access to its entire library of pictures. The team ran several galleries over consecutive weeks which generated high levels of traffic.

The team has also been able to do fun things with products which have been sent to the office. If it’s exciting and different they will always post content on social. In the past, one of the team has used Periscope to live stream opening a giant box of chocolates. The team also snapchatted responses around the office to bottles of black water, a new product which was sent by PRs.

Natasha would be happy to hear ideas on how best they could use a product on social. Building relationships is key, but the strength of the product has to be there.

The team prefers to be contacted by email. Julia is often won over by pretty images and lots of stats. Sending products to the team, rather than just a release about it, can also draw attention. She also doesn’t mind being emailed more than once. Everyone on the team is also a big fan of cake!

The team always has to take into consideration both its UK and global audience. Stats are always a big consideration so content has to be potentially shareable with Yahoo! UK’s counterparts across the world. In the UK, content can’t be too London-centric. PRs can get around this by inviting the team to events. If they attend events, they’ll tweet about it, potentially do a piece on it and maybe include it in an events round-up.

Video content

Video is king across all Yahoo!'s platforms. Every article the team writes has a video on the page somewhere. While in theory the team would like to be sent raw file so it can be edited, in practice being sent a readymade Mpeg4 that can be directly uploaded to the site works best.

The sports team will also be launching a section on sports business. Videos that can demystify complex issues like financial fair play work very well. While this type of video may not be the lead of a story, it will be embedded every time a story around that subject is written about – which could mean it will sit on 100 separate news pages.


Book reviews don’t feature on Yahoo! Lifestyle – it’s not something the audience is looking for, says Julia. However, the team has done articles on big summer reads for the year. They also did a tally around the office on which books the team liked and put it out on Twitter to see what the reaction would be. They got a much bigger response than they anticipated, and ended up creating a Yahoo! Lifestyle Recommends piece.

Exclusive extracts are very useful in the entertainment space. The One Direction interview was actually as a result of the band’s new book, and the team made sure to work the book into the content.

When it comes to sports content, several big stories come out of sports biographies, so James will cover these as much as he can. The team also does a book review round-up of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, which always proves popular.


The lifestyle team doesn’t have a lot of time to leave the office, but they do try to take press trips when they can. Travel is a big focus for the team and as they switch to a more visual platform, Natasha says there is upcoming potential to do more on it.