Yahoo! Moves in on Niche Websites

by Dan Blank on February 2, 2007

Yahoo! is looking to ride the wave of niche websites, launching Brand Universe, which intends to:

“…create online destinations that will draw large audiences around individual movies, television shows, bands, celebrities, games and other types of entertainment.”

Their first site is for the Nintendo Wii. The page is an aggregation of Wii info from Yahoo’s various services (such as Flickr and Answers), as well as other web sources.

Within huge promotional pieces that you see on the homepage, you are asked to “sound off” on your opinions about the Wii, and are shown cartoon characters of other ‘cool kids’ who you may meet in the forum. Not a lot of credibility is given to the site, when two of the three female characters are quoted as saying:

  • Mario is cute
  • So, like, does it come in pink

Mostly, the site seems very watered down, when compared to other Wii sites. It contains generalized information that is trying so hard to appeal to everyone, that it lacks any real value, edge, or sense of ‘place’ that a true fan driven site gives you. There is certainly value to Yahoo’s approach, and it could drive sizable traffic. However, I wonder what their target metrics are, and how quickly they will pull the plug on these sites, leaving users and fans empty handed.

To be fair, they are still at a very early stage in the game for the Yahoo! Wii site, and they have many others to launch and learn from. Perhaps they will grow by seeking out different segments of these niches, people who do not know of, or feel comfortable with, more edgy websites on the periphery that are filled with hardcore fans. Or perhaps these sites will evolve in that direction.

But the most disturbing thing is how these characters remind me of the early 1990’s Burger King Kids Club gang.

Currently on the Yahoo! Will page, their Flickr photo stream is pulling in a photos of the words “Yahoo Sucks” – a further indication of the backlash about changes over at Flickr, and the risk of aggregation.

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