Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and other company executives recently unveiled a News Digest feature and new digital magazines. The announcement came during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. New products look a lot like a new news brand for the Web giant.
The trouble is that Yahoo’s target audience seems to be, not a small niche group, but…well, everybody!
How To Build a Branded News Niche
The independent news brand can be a fertile opportunity for small online businesses and digital startups.
By focusing on a small niche group, small publishers can deliver specially created or curated news and information. That content is tailored specifically for an underserved audience.
Think Instapundit  for Libertarian conservatives, The Huffington Post  for liberal progressives, TechCrunch  for the tech startup community, and Marketing Land  for the online marketing community.
Some of these brands have since been acquired by larger companies. But the key to their early success, and in many ways to their continued growth, has come from serving these groups.
It was the same with Mashable, started as a tech blog by current CEO Pete Cahmore at 19 and run from home. But last week, Mashable announced $13 million in venture funding , its first outside investment.
With the money, Mashable will open more editorial offices and hire more journalists to create more original content.
The company has already expanded its categories of news coverage from primarily tech and social media to include business, entertainment and other topics. However, stories covered are still aimed specifically at a Web savvy audience.
Yahoo Announces News Digest
By contrast, Yahoo’s News Digest app  seems built on the notion that there’s too much information out there already. There’s also the implication that a large news company not a small independent news brand should decide what’s important to customers.
Yahoo product manager Nick D’Aloisio explains:
Newspapers used to provide comprehensive summaries of current affairs, but on mobile, there is so much to choose from that it’s become overwhelming. So we wanted to design a new product around the idea of being quickly informed on all the need-to-know stories of the day.
So, Yahoo News Digest uses an algorithm and some human curating to put together the top stories (about nine of them) the company feels you should see. One digest will be delivered on the app in the morning and one in the evening. There will also be some extra stories that didn’t make the cut.
These digests will be gathered from multiple sources in segments called “atoms” including text, infographics, maps, video, financial tickers and more, says D’Aloisio.
But there’s no talk of giving users the content they want, or for that matter of who the news app’s target audience might be.
Here’s more on the app from D’ Aloisio:
Digital Magazines and Global Anchor Introduced
Yahoo is also unveiling a group of digital magazines. David Pogue is a vice president of editorial for Yahoo and a former correspondent for The New York Times. He introduced one of the publications entitled Yahoo Tech  at the Las Vegas event. Another magazine called Yahoo Food  has already been launched with more on the way, CNET reports.
But here again, Yahoo’s offering seems to suffer from a lack of purpose. Pogue describes Yahoo Tech as a publication for the 85 percent of the U.S. outside the more technically sophisticated areas of New York City and the West Cost.
(In other words, the magazine will be tech for non-tech people?)
Mayer also introduced Katie Couric, a former television reporter and host for all three of the major networks.Yahoo recently announced Couric as its new global anchor. Couric said she hopes to interview news makers, politicians, sports figures, philanthropists, tech leaders and social entrepreneurs. (Don’t we all?) But it was less clear what specific audience the new Yahoo content would serve.
In short, Yahoo seems to be banking on its well-known brand to give it a large general customer base for its general news product. But company leaders don’t seem to have thought much about what niche that content is targeted to reach.
It’s too early to determine whether this approach will be effective. However, it is the opposite of the strategy used successfully by most independent news brands in recent years.
When creating independent branded news as part of your business, focus carefully on the audience or customers you most wish to reach. Start by targeting the customers most likely to buy the products or visit the advertisers you have on your site.