Day in the Life: Yahoo Finance editor Andy Serwer talks Brexit, working at Yahoo

day in the life of yahoo finance

Yahoo Finance editor-in-chief Adam Serwer admits that, yes, working there has its challenges.

interview with Adam Serwer, editor of Yahoo Finance
Serwer. (Photo: Yahoo)

“At Yahoo, there’s a lot of stuff going on,” he told Digiday, in reference to the near daily stories of layoffs, shuttering of content verticals and its hazy future. “Bu we tend to block that out and focus on the work we’re doing.”

He added, “Look at every single company on the planet. They’re always rejiggering and restructuring, and we tried some stuff here; some of it worked, and some of it didn’t.”

In fact, Yahoo Finance is one of its bright spots. The vertical pulled in 71 million U.S. visitors last month, according to comScore. Serwer oversees an editorial staff of 18 people, with plans to hire more.

Serwer joined Yahoo in February 2015 following a 29-year stint at Time Inc.’s Fortune Magazine, saying that he was attracted to working for a “digital native” company.

In total, Yahoo Finance produces 150 articles and videos — a mix of studio-based shows, live streams and social clips — every week. “We are the video platform for business news,” he said. “While a lot of people talk about doing over-the-top, we’re doing it at scale and getting hundreds of thousands of views during big news days.”

There has been no bigger news day recently than the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union. With the Brexit decision still reverberating in the markets, Serwer suggested to the financial markets to keep calm and carry on. “The economic damage and damage to the U.S. markets won’t be so profound,” he said. “Britain is important, but it’s not that huge a piece of economic activity.”

Here’s what he did last Thursday, slightly edited for clarity and length:

5:45 a.m.: Wake up. I check my email, Slack notifications, and Yahoo Finance (while still in bed I’m sorry to say.) My team loves using Slack to communicate on work matters but also to share crazy stories. Then I head out for a run in Central Park. Come back. Drink green juice. (I know, I know.)

6:45 a.m.: Start getting ready for my day. At this point, I’m already communicating with my team about stories and logistics. Hey, business news starts early!

7:30 a.m.: Jump on the C/B train to the Yahoo offices in Times Square.

8:00 a.m.: Arrive at Yahoo. First check in with the producers as we prep for our daily live morning show, Market Movers, a look at the news of the day before the opening bell.

8:30 a.m.: Live on air! Today, we’re discussing the upcoming Brexit vote. We had scones and clotted cream to honor the occasion, brought to us by team member Clara Colbert. Jolly good!

Adam Serwer, Yahoo Finance editor, appears on one of Yahoo’s shows. (Photo: Yahoo)
Serwer appears on one of Yahoo’s shows. (Photo: Yahoo)

9:00 a.m.: Meet with team for our editorial meeting. We gather as a group every morning to review pitches for the day. It’s an opportunity for everyone to share ideas for stories and collaborate. Our team does both text and video, so we might be talking about live shows or shoots, and/or just reporting and writing. We also love to discuss some of those ‘out there’ stories as well. Today, we had a convo about the Unabomber calling an impersonator a “creep.” What?

10:00 a.m.: Conversation with Product leader Charlie Hartel. We’re always trying to figure out ways to work better together. Go to make up room for touch-up make-up for an upcoming interview. My co-worker, Katie Couric, compliments me on my blue shoes. Nice!

Noon: Midday Movers show begins. I’m not appearing on the show today but checked it out from my desktop.

12:30 p.m.: Lunch at the Lamb’s Club with Juliana Chen, an executive at Pfizer. I mentioned to her that HBO CEO Richard Plepler often comes here, and, lo and behold, there he is when we walk in. The three of us gossip a bit and talk about Pfizer, Yahoo and HBO. It’s like “Game of Thrones” in there!

2:30 p.m.: Respond to emails. Always more emails. Today, I reply to Warren Buffett about an interview coming up with him. Ask Chuck Leavell about some upcoming Rolling Stones shows. And set up a dinner with former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack and his wife, Christy.

3:00 p.m.: Checking on news stories. The markets are strong ahead of the Brexit vote. (Little do they know…) Get sidetracked by a story about Burger King introducing a Mac N’ Cheese puff that my team shares in our Slack channel. Check in with managing editor Sam Ro about a meeting with our superstar Tech reporter, David Pogue.

4:00 p.m.: Final Round Live! Our last live show of the day (yes, that’s three a day!). We did a special edition today regarding Brexit. We talked about how the markets are betting that Brexit isn’t going to happen (they were wrong), and ran a clip from my interview with Tony Blair.

Yahoo’s homepage following the Brexit.
Yahoo’s homepage following the Brexit.

4:30 p.m.: Internal meeting about Brexit planning. We’re doing a special live show tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. to report on the results of the Brexit vote. In this meeting, I’m talking to producers, reporters and the studio team to make sure the show will rock.

5:30 p.m.: Head out for a quick drink at Parkview Lounge in Columbus Circle with old pal Bob Kubacki, a salesman with [the door and window company] Pella who’s visiting from Indiana. Bob was a legendary quarterback at our alma mater, Bowdoin College.

6:15 p.m.: Then zip over to dinner at Marea with some Chinese media executives.

10:00 p.m.: Check in on the Brexit vote. Uh oh, this is starting to look like Brexit will happen, which means tomorrow will be crazy.

 

Photo credit: A Princess via Visual Hunt / CC BY

As Yahoo pursues strategic options, who might buy Yahoo Finance?

who will buy Yahoo Finance?

2015 was a tough year for Yahoo and its Chief Executive, Marissa Meyer.

News hit yesterday that the multimedia firm would explore strategic options. According to the press release, these options would include the company doubling down on its existing media properties, like Yahoo Finance, and jettisoning other business line that aren’t core to the business.

Analysts aren’t convinced of the plan, saying it kind of felt that Meyer and the BOD both wanted different things. Eric Jackson, an activist investor lobbying for change at Yahoo, said that the plan was essentially just trying to “split the baby”: the firm will keep trying to do its reverse spin plan (something he called, “not credible”) and at the same time, pursue other alternatives.

Lost in the mix of all this discussion is Yahoo Finance, still after all these years, one of the largest financial websites. According to analysis by Digiday, though its peers are making major headway, Yahoo Finance in still at the top of the pecking order in most traffic metrics — its 52.3m monthly pageviews in April 2015 were followed most closely by the 40.8m produced by Business Insider. Same for video: Yahoo Finance’s 11.5m eclipsed the desktop video views on Forbes, Bloomberg, and CNBC. With similar viewer demographics shared by the top finance sites, by all accounts, Yahoo Finance is a valuable property.

largest business websites by traffic

But talk about Yahoo putting itself up for sale begs the question: what’s to be of Yahoo Finance? In spite of all the tumult and the chaos surrounding Yahoo, its finance property is still one of the largest financial and business websites in the world.

So, who would be interested in buying Yahoo Finance? Tradestreaming produced the following list of suspects:

  • Axel Springer: Based in Berlin, Axel Springer is one of the largest European media firms. It’s hard to believe there would be interest in acquiring YF after the company bought Business Insider for $450m in September of 2015. That said, the combination of the YF firehose of traffic with the BI’s content volume could be an interesting pairing.
  • Financial Times: Insiders were genuinely surprised when Nikkei, Japan’s largest media firm, emerged as the buyer of the venerable FT for £844m ($1.3 billion) from Pearson. The Economist quipped that the “stratospherically high” price the Nikkei was paying (2.5x revenues) would probably limit the media conglomerate’s ability to invest further in building out the property. So, ostensibly, the FT/Nikkei will sit on the sidelines.
  • News Corp: Rupert Murdoch’s media firm acquired the Dow Jones companies for $5.6 billion back in 2007. The purchase brought the Wall Street Journal under Murdoch’s purview but also Barron’s and MarketWatch. Digital-only subscriptions reached 819k in 2015, up more than 125k year over year. Yahoo Finance could provide another ecosystem to acquire customers and sell ads for Dow Jones. This could be interesting for both firms.
  • Verizon: In December of last year, Verizon emerged as a potential suitor for Yahoo’s entire business. Bloomberg explained the telecommunication’s interest in Yahoo derived from the fact that it staked its future on mobile Internet and video growth, making it bosom buddies with Yahoo. Verizon already paid over $4 billion to acquire AOL, which has DailyFinance as its horse in the finance/business race. Though there’s not a lot of overlap in audiences, Yahoo Finance may find a home at Verizon as part of a larger acquisition.
  • Forbes: The business media company will turn 100 years old next year and recently sold a majority of its holdings to Integrated Whale Media Investments, a Hong Kong-based firm. Things haven’t been going so smoothly between the new partners (there’s a law suit) and consequently, both sides aren’t likely looking for any other financial transactions for the time being.
  • Bloomberg: The media arm of the financial terminal business continues to grow its headcount and its media coverage to complement its hardware business. Remember, Bloomberg bought BusinessWeek from McGrawHill. BloombergBusinessweek serves as the company’s print product. So, it’s no stranger to buying media businesses and is a fairly regular acquirer of data businesses. It may have an interest in adding in Yahoo Finance, given the portal’s positioning to news, content, and charting.
  • Private equity: Yahoo Finance, if it were to be sold separately from the rest of the media organization, appears to be ripe for a private equity acquirer. Shore up traffic and monetization efforts, make the firm more efficient and it could be a very prescient investment for the right kind of investor. Going the PE route depends on how likely Yahoo is at this point to entertain outside offers for parts of its company.

Yahoo Finance, in spit of all of its parents travails, is still going strong. But, it can be so much more in the right hands.

 

 

Photo credit: Yahoo Inc via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

StockTwits growing, hiring, and portalizing

Realtime platform for stock traders to share info, StockTwits has just hired David Putnam, previously head of 800lb gorilla that is Yahoo Finance.  Howard Lindzon’s firm continues to just chug along, growing traffic, rolling out products and now, recruiting seriously for growth.

According to TechCrunch:

According to Quantcast, 465,000 people are now visiting the site per month, which means the company has more than doubled its visitors since early December, when less than 200,000 were checking in to share and trade. This seems largely due to the service’s continuing evolution beyond its TweetDeck roots and creation of its own true investor ecosystem chalk full of video, news and charts — all enabled by an AIR app.

StockTwits has been pushing on a couple of fronts which should interest investors:

  1. investor relations: The firm is serious about attracting IR business, announcing the hiring of Chris Bullock as VP of Corporate Services.
  2. monetization engine: Watching the evolution of Seeking Alpha’s App Store closely, ST has rolled out its own marketplace for data products.
  3. portalize: This is something Putnam knows well from Yahoo but Yahoo made a massive site on curating essential information investors need.  ST is growing traffic by syndicating its own content.  Look for ST to become more of a destination site investor head to for more of the investment/research process.

Source:

StockTwits continues to expand, steals VP David Putnam from Yahoo Finance (TechCrunch)

Realtime trading data in the collective tradestream is HUGE

Softly launched a month ago, Yahoo Finance’s Market Pulse is actually a huge f’in deal.  Clearly, the press — and investors — hasn’t really understood what’s going on here.  And I’m not talking about StockTwits’ inclusion in the real-time stream (there are only two sources of data right now).  What’s really huge here is the Covestor feed that’s showing up on stocks.

Market Pulse is a real-time feed — much like Twitter is — on specific stocks.  So, whenever a trader or investor tweets or writes about a stock, it shows up here.  So, everytime someone blabs about $AAPL on StockTwits, investors can follow that stream alongside the other data provided on Yahoo Finance.  Is that interesting?  Maybe.  It is part of the real time conversation and important for hyperactive traders, I guess.

But the big deal here is what Covestor is supplying to Yahoo Finance users.  As a marketplace for investment services, Covestor actually validates/verifies trading activity of its managers.  In turn, Covestor supplies Yahoo’s Market Pulse with a real-time stream of trading activity — real live trades with real money behind them.  Users get a feel for how large a portfolio position is (in percentage basis) and whether the investor is building or liquidating a position.  Where else can you find this in real time? Nowhere.

This is all about the power of the collective tradestream.  This takes everything to a whole new level.

This is a BIG deal.

Yahoo Finance getting in on the real-time game

who will buy Yahoo Finance?

Thanks to the ever-vigilant Felix Salmon (he’s a hawk, actually) who tweeted a job opening at Yahoo Finance.

From the job posting:

We’re looking for an experienced, versatile, high-motor blog editor specializing in business news targeted at both sophisticated and mass-market audiences. The successful candidate will write and report his or her own stories, as well as hire and manage a small team of professional bloggers to curate and create original content for the largest audience on the Web. This person will set the strategy for and oversee the publication of financial blog content for programming on Yahoo! Finance, the Yahoo! network and consumption on the Web at-large.

The move in context

So, like Forbes which recently announced its intentions and strategy to unload its Investopedia property and embark on a more real-time blogging/curating model, Yahoo Finance is moving towards its own real-time financial content aggregation model.  Whether you agree with Fobes’ decision or not (and Paul Carr most certainly doesn’t calling it the “death of a thousand hacks”), Yahoo Finance’s move is different.

Forbes and Forbes.com have always been about content.  Forbes has always employed professional editors in a mixed outside-inside model for content, blending its own staff reporters with content contributed from asset managers and thought-leaders in their field.  Never known for its ability to break stories, Forbes really was about highlighting interesting opinions from experts in their verticals.

But Yahoo is different than Forbes

Yahoo Finance is a different animal.  While Yahoo Finance hasn’t changed much in the past 10 years (much to my chagrin), this move changes its tack.  Remember, Yahoo Finance, as a giant financial portal, has always been about aggregation of both data and information, taking feeds from tens of information and content providers.  By the way, check out ValueCruncher’s CEO’s, Mark Clare, great breakdown of Yahoo Finance, its past, its business and potential to disrupt providers like Bloomberg in the future.

Yahoo Finance is still the 800-lb gorilla in online finance as evidenced by its majority of traffic in the online finance category (see graph to the right). What’s made Yahoo Finance so strong was an early-mover advantage and a site that just worked quickly and had enough information on it to act as a proxy for a research terminal (Why Google Finance still sucks at its news offering is beyond me).  With a deal it consummated with Seeking Alpha in 2007, Y! Finance dipped its big toe into the wild and woolly financial blogosphere.  Now, with the job posting mentioned above, it appears that Yahoo Finance is changing its strategy.

How this may play out

This is a risky strategy.  In essence, the financial portal is pitting itself opposite all its content partners — many of whom pay the portal for the firehose of traffic it throws off.   I’d be less willing to partner with a company that is introducing a product to compete directly with mine.  And this is a common problem with channel marketing for any platform — and Yahoo Finance is certainly a finance platform — in that the platform, given where it sits in the whole matrix of supply-demand, can always just mimic other offerings that are working.  This is the fear of developing any tools that work on Twitter of Facebook – that the social media platform can quickly just put you out of business.

Such is the life now for Yahoo Finance content partners.  If (and this is a big IF) the Yahoo Finance offering is a combination of serious, professional editorial oversight with smart curation with a good understanding of what’s important to Y! Finance readers (a-la Abnormal Returns) with thought-evoking and decision-supporting articles, Yahoo Finance can evolve itself from a financial resource to a must-see, must-read site for both individual and institutional investors.

What if it doesn’t work

If, however, Yahoo Finance doesn’t do this right and takes a half-assed, half-baked approach, the results could be pretty serious: both for the company/site and for content, in general.  As Steve Lubetkin argued with me yesterday in the comments on PRNewser’s article Is Steve Rubel the Future of Forbes, aggregation using free, contributed — outside content — risks turning everything into an “echo chamber” where the biggest voices (those voices appearing everywhere) drown out newer, more creative content by people who take content creation really seriously.  If Yahoo Finance’s own content offering isn’t managed well, it could cause other partners to leave the site, taking their money and their contribution to the estimated few hundred million dollars in annual revenue Yahoo Finance generated.

What this all  means for aggregation sites?  We’ll have to see how it plays out.   There’s most likely room for multiple aggregators if they end up focusing on slightly different readerships (a retirement investors reads different content than a day trader).

Yahoo Finance going (more) global

From the Yahoo Finance blog today:

Today the Yahoo! Finance team rolled out new Yahoo! Finance sites in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Singapore. Already in 20+ countries around the world, this is the first wave of a global Yahoo! Finance platform that is rolling out across the globe. This global platform now enables new countries to be onboarded at a rapid pace, and all countries receive new features at the same time.

Besides the awesome use of ‘onboarded’, it appears Yahoo Finance is redoubling efforts and getting serious about building out a global platform.