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David Pogue and Yahoo's "Normals" Problem 213

Nerval's Lobster writes "In a keynote talk at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, David Pogue (Yahoo's freshly minted technology columnist) suggested that the new 'Yahoo Tech' Website — a key part of the company's latest rebranding — would be targeted at 'normal' people as opposed to 'gearheads.' Based on a map that flashed on the giant screen behind him, which showed the 'normals' clustered in the middle of the country and the 'gearheads' restricted to the coasts, it's clear that Yahoo has embraced a divisive strategy that tries to equate Yahoo's brands with some sort of mythical 'middlebrow' audience that exists within clearly defined borders. (During his presentation, Pogue also flashed a slide that made fun of competing tech-news brands: The Verge was rendered as 'The Urge,' for example, while Gizmodo became 'Gizmoody.') The problem is that rigid audience of 'normals' doesn't exist, at least not in the way that Yahoo envisions. Large numbers of well-educated technology consumers — 'gearheads,' in Pogue's parlance — exist all over the country; to say otherwise is like suggesting that Wyoming is 100 percent Republican, or that everybody who lives in Florida hates snow. In other words, Yahoo's approach to tech content isn't merely schismatic; it's willfully unaware of the variety that exists among technology fans."
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David Pogue and Yahoo's "Normals" Problem

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  • What do you expect? (Score:2, Informative)

    by jddeluxe ( 965655 )
    Anything but douchery from David Pogue?
    • by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:50PM (#45898681)

      Not just him. Go to that website:
      http://www.yahoo.com/tech/?ref=news [yahoo.com]

      It's wall-to-wall crap and ads. Literally wall-to-wall. It fills the page with graphics slammed up touching to each other. Up-down-left-right.

      It's what you would get if a douchbag spec'ed out a site.

      • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:51PM (#45898693) Homepage Journal

        Reminds me of Windows 8, actually.

      • by ericloewe ( 2129490 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:59PM (#45898799)

        Uses my whole 27" screen? Check.

        Shows more than it would on a phone? No.

        Is it usable? No.

        Does it have any noteworthy content? Not any that I saw before my eyes started hurting and I closed the tab.

      • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:23PM (#45899069)
        That's not a website. It's a screensaver.
      • Argh! My eyes!

      • by pepty ( 1976012 )
        Same goals and same result as the redesign of Slate.com. Let me guess how this will look two weeks after CES: all stories will show up in three different places on the page under at least two different headlines. Headlines themselves will be clickbait, stories will be recycled from other sites.
  • Lol. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:33PM (#45898499)
    Nerd website complains that new nerd section in other website isn't nerdy enough. News at 11.
    • Ok, so he wants to deliver nerdy news to people who might be interested but not nerds. That fits Yahoo's overall scheme. The problem is (this guy who is in charge of reporting about the internet) from the way he drew his map, he not only doesn't understand the distribution of technology work in the US, he doesn't even seem to understand how the internet makes even the proper inclusion of those pointless.
      • by QilessQi ( 2044624 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:45PM (#45899351)

        It's a potentially politically-divisive map from what should be a non-political company. Focus on the US portion for a minute:

        1. He shows the "gearheads" on both coasts in blue, and the "normals" in-between in red. Very much like a current political map of the US, where the majority of the center is red (Republican) and the coasts are largely blue (Democrat). As RLM puts it: maybe you didn't notice, but your brain did. I really don't think the red/blue choice was an accident. A lot of Yahoo management eyeballs would have seen it, thought about it, and approved it.

        2. The map equates the positive term "normal" with red [heartland, Republicans] and the negative term "gearheads" with blue [coastal, Democrats].

        3. The map shows a larger proportion of red areas than blue areas, suggesting that the US is far more "normal" than "gearhead". If it were really meant to show "normal" vs "gearhead" then it's obviously absurd: what about Chicago, Austin, DC, and other major tech centers? But it's certainly appealing for a Republican to look at a US map and see far more red than blue.

        All of which seems designed to position Yahoo as a politically-conservative portal, meant to appeal to people that would prefer to avoid supposedly-liberal web sites like Google. Look at this article to see what I mean:

        http://politicaloutcast.com/2013/04/the-conservative-alternative-to-the-liberal-google/ [politicaloutcast.com]

        I’m talking about Goodsearch. Goodsearch is run by Yahoo, which, against Google, gives comparatively poor search results. But the return for using Goodsearch is that for each search you make, the company donates one cent to the charity or school of your choice.... This is a great conservative alternative to Google, which yesterday, instead of using its daily Google graphic to honor Easter, they used it to honor a day that not only does no one celebrate, but which nobody has heard of: Cesar Chavez Day.

        Ok, maybe I'm reading more into that map than I should, but they certainly opened the door for speculation. :-)

        • I definitely notice the similarities to political boundaries although I didn't notice the coloration. I have a problem with the business case for them choosing to be similar to Fox News. I can tell from personal experience they have been experimenting with user targeted slant with their news articles. If they can slant based on what they think they know about me then why in the world would they only do conservatism?
          • (Hmmm... /. swallowed my original answer... take two...)

            Well, to be clear, I'm not saying that I think Yahoo is trying to win over a conservative market. But that map certainly made my brain go there. :-)

            But to answer your question... I think Yahoo could conceivably consider adopting a solidly conservative slant for the same reason that Fox News doesn't try to win over a more liberal audience. There's probably a niche market in news/mail/entertainment which has a reputation of being consistently friendly

          • I have a problem with the business case for them choosing to be similar to Fox News.

            Yet it's clearly a good strategy. Not for right-slanted bias, but the general appeal. Fox News has basically won the cable news network wars, the only battleground being who gets 2nd place. NBC news people won't go near MSNBC, CNN is going to a show format instead of news. The only real talent left to the competitors is Rachel Maddow.

            So if Yahoo can duplicate that kind of success in web site news, it would be quite a coup.

        • "Goodsearch"? Seriously? Sounds like the search engine run by MiniTrue. [wikipedia.org]

        • Have you read the comments on Yahoo articles? Even things that are marginally political or not political at all have random comments from people espousing conservative talking points. I don't know if Yahoo ever intended to become a conservative web portal, but that audience has found them. Yahoo has chosen to embrace them and design their content around their audience.
      • Yeah, he will probably have the website only open from 8:30 to 5:30 Eastern time, too.
    • Nerd website complains that new nerd section in other website isn't nerdy enough. News at 11.

      And Unknown Lamer with the weather: "Florida hates snow!"

  • by asmkm22 ( 1902712 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:35PM (#45898517)

    One thing that has really stood out for me in the last 5 or 6 years is just how conservative their readers tend to skew. It's where the Fox News crowd goes. Just read the comments section of any random news story and you'll see what I mean.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:53PM (#45898727) Homepage Journal

      Actually the amount of vile idiots in the comments of the mainstream news sites is about the same. 95% CNN, MSNBC, and FOX comments are total dung heaps. Frankly they all make Slashdot look like a bastion of polite, openminded, and levelheaded people.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:09PM (#45898899)

        Frankly they all make Slashdot look like a bastion of polite, openminded, and levelheaded people.

        Try reading Slashdot at -1. The idiotic vileness is still here, it is just hidden by the moderation system. I have never understood why more sites don't use a Slashdot like moderation system. It isn't perfect, but it is way better than an open spigot.

        • Because they are run by "Normals"?
          • Because they are run by "Normals"?

            As opposed to Brights [wikipedia.org]?

          • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

            Not really. Most "normal" people are just as outraged as everyone else. They just don't bother to fight with pigs. In that way the normals are probably much better off mentally than we are.
            The thing is with an open forum system you have to deal with the "activist" crowd. It does not matter if it is right or left they are sure they are correct and everyone else is an idiot. Most people just skip over the comments or do not waste their time. What I think is funny is that people misunderstood what I was sayin

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I believe most of those comments are paid by Republican think tanks. If they can skew the discussion to a far right as possible, over time, you will mold the reader's left vs right barometer.

      • My mom - who used to be a member of the local green party, and definitely on the low end of the income scale - ended up watching a bit of fox news with her boyfriend over the years. It was shocking how much she would complain about Obama and various liberal policies after a few years of propaganda.
    • I agree. The comments at Yahoo take the lead for Lovecraftian mind-melting horror.

    • One thing that has really stood out for me in the last 5 or 6 years is just how conservative their readers tend to skew.

      Once thing that has stood out for me, is how many people confuse conservatives with Republican(TM)s. Fox News is Republican(TM), not conservative.

      Conservative: "Central government should be relatively small and weak compared to what we have right now, with as many powers and responsibilities born by the individual states as is reasonably expedient."

      Republicans: "Every single scientist is

  • by bigjarom ( 950328 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:36PM (#45898527) Journal
    I actually got mad while following live tweets of Pogue's talk. But then I thought, "Well, this is going to fail in few months anyway," so then I felt better.
  • ...Yahoo Messenger for me. That's all. I already have friends moving out of Y!M towards Google Talk (which I loathe) but most of them are still there.
    Apart from that, Yahoo! means nothing to me, not anymore.

    • Yea, but look at the pretty, well dressed, blond haired blue eyed CEO⦠as I wave in the general direction of Marissa Mayer and you are slowly hypnotized in to forgetting about everything else Yahoo does wrong.

  • Believe it or not, those flyover states have more intelligent technical people in them than you have in your company.
  • Site Dilution (Score:5, Informative)

    by edibobb ( 113989 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:43PM (#45898599) Homepage
    Yahoo Tech is going the route of site dilution, in which each site eventually dumbs down to something in between Gawker, Huff Post, and Fox News. The sites post the same inane, inaccurate stories, such as "supervolcanoes imminent". Uh oh... wasn't that on /. ?
    • The difference that occurred to me: smart users run Adblock. Show the suckers ads, leave the power users to someone else. Coincidentally, this appears to be the Windows 8 strategy too.

  • Overlay the map with last election results and it appears that he thinks that Republicans are now normal, while Democrats are "gearheads", which may or may not be an insult :)

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      Look at a county by county map rather than a state by state map. You'll see that Red counties pretty much cover the USA, except for a smattering of urban, high population Blue spots.
  • So what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DarkOx ( 621550 )

    I find Pogue's theory's about the demography of normals a bit suspect, but conceptually its not crazy. Every business should know who their customers are and beyond that know who their good customers are (IE the ones that make them rather than cost them money).

    In the case of Yahoo though a couple things come to mind:
    Gear Heads are your customers customers in many cases. There seems to be two types of product pushed in online ads, scammy stuff sold to idots and highend ( or at least high margin ) stuff sol

    • There seems to be two types of product pushed in online ads, scammy stuff sold to idots and highend ( or at least high margin ) stuff sold to various types of gearhead/*-ophile,foodie,junkie types.

      Interesting point. I'm going to think about that one for a bit.

      I feel like most of the ads I see are from sites I've been to previously.

    • I spend money on my hobbies, but by the end of the year you would have made more selling me all the ordinary things like toothpaste, shampoo, frozen pizza. I think the most I've spent on a hobby in a year is when I purchased a new guitar and stack I spent about $3k that year. I spend more than twice that on food alone.

  • I'm both. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:48PM (#45898661)

    As I suspect are most people.
    I'm a gearhead when considering electronic test equipment.
    I'm more of a prosumer for commodity computer hardware.
    I'm pretty normal for tablet use - I haven't even rooted my nexus 7.
    I'm well below normal about how much I care about cars and TVs.

    The notion that people care equally much about all aspects of a wide field 'tech' is barking mad.

    • I'm probably pretty similar. However, as a counterpoint, because you are a gearhead then you probably have the background to come up to speed quicker than what he called normal. You say you aren't a car guy but I bet in a couple sentences that you could pretty well get regenerative braking where their target normal audience is going to need a full article with diagrams and pictures.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:22PM (#45899061)

      I don't even want to know I live in a world where people like you are alive!
      I rooted my car, looked under the hood of my tablet, fiddled with the color settings of my CPU and overclocked my TV. And I make my own test equipment, thank you.

    • I'm well below normal about how much I care about cars and TVs.

      .....but I suspect even your rudimentary understanding of cars and TVs outstrips the best of the "normals" we are talking about. Anyone on /. will be completely bored with this approach. The first thing I thought of was "great, more USA Today Tech articles with sidenotes from Kim Kommando". Sure, there is an audience for that.....but it's tech section will cater to Mary Jane Mathteacher and Tips for Excel.
  • So, they're trying to put together a tech site that isn't tech? Isn't that just, like, a site?
    • Re:I'm confused... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:59PM (#45898803) Homepage Journal

      I think it is more along the idea of with out the tragic hipster culture. The Verge and Gizmodo are too involved with the lifestyle side of tech. For example when I listen to the podcast "It's a thing" I keep hearing about idiots dressing up like captain Nemo and talking about artisanal hardware. Where I live you just do not see fixie bikes and $300 backpacks. The Verge podcasts is full of never ending negative comments about "Red States" much the same as you hear in the comments on Slashdot.
      So yes I can see the value of a tech site that does not live in the Hipster culture bubble.

      • Thanks, that does make more sense now. I live in the Midwest and know of a number of people who don't have a "lifestyle" around tech, but make considerable use and modification of it on a regular basis. Come to think of it, I bought my laptop backpack at Wal Mart, lol...
  • Yet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bob_super ( 3391281 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:52PM (#45898707)

    He achieved his goal by making you talk about his company. Free ads.
    Controversy doesn't always sell, but that's the first time in weeks that anyone has talked about yahoo.

  • Normal people don't care about technology. That's why his "gearhead" labels work.

    That whole idea would immedeatly sound silly if you used another subject: What about "Yahoo Sports!" but not geared towards "jocks" but "normals"?

    • What about "Yahoo Sports!" but not geared towards "jocks" but "normals"?

      Sounds like my brother and his friends... they watch and talk about sports almost religiously but would probably fall down and pass out if they ran up and down the basketball court a couple times.

  • Yahoo is launching a "tech" section? How cute.

  • by david.emery ( 127135 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:02PM (#45898827)

    Am I the the last person in the world who uses RSS readers to browse news sites for stories that I actually want to read? After all, 90% of everything is crap and I'm looking for efficient ways to find the 10%.

    The visual clutter on that site is appalling, I thought Pogue had more taste than that.

    • by wile_e8 ( 958263 )
      You aren't the last person using RSS, but you and all the rest of the people still using RSS are gearheads, and they don't want gearheads. They'd much rather have the type of people that think Twitter can serve the same purpose.
      • Well, I have no use for Twitter, so I guess that rules me out as a customer for the site. Unlike some others here, I actually like David Pogue's writing.

  • by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:03PM (#45898849) Homepage

    That's one of the most losing business strategies I've ever heard.

    But it's not alone. There's a lot of failed businesses that at some point when down the lunatic path of "But just imagine if the huge majority of people who don't have any use for service X were converted to using service X! We'd be rich!"

  • by DigitAl56K ( 805623 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:04PM (#45898859)

    How is this a "rebrand". I'm one of those techie people, and Yahoo! isn't my go-to for... anything, as I suspect it already isn't for most other techie people.

  • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

    So, Yahoo probably doesn't give a damn if it has the 100% solution. It's about getting more eyeballs to their site, not about getting all of them. There are certainly more "normals" than "gearheads", so for Yahoo, this looks like an improvement. On the other hand, those of us on /. probably won't visit them much.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:16PM (#45898989)

    I don't know, I think he might be on to something, but the red state/blue state map doesn't make any real world sense. Part of it seems like the typical NYC/California hipster bubble ignoring the rest of the country but the idea might be right.

    Don't forget that in the 70s/80s, only real gearheads/nerds were doing anything with computers. This changed in the 90s with the Internet, and changed even more with smartphones in the 2000s. Now, the camps skew a little differently:
    - True gearheads who want to know every little scrap of technical information about a technology product -- increasingly small percentage
    - "Prosumer" users who like nice tech toys but aren't obsessed with the "how they work" part -- Small pecentage, but more than gearheads
    - "Normals" who use technology on a daily basis and care even less about how it works -- Basically, the same surface area on that map redistributed across the continent

    Part of the reason Apple is so successful is because the iPhone interface is accessible to normals. Everything complex about it is hidden. Android does this to an extent, and different phone/tablet manufacturers abstract the complexity even more. Any normal can pick up an iPhone, use the Facebook app, SMS, tweet, send old fashioned emails, etc. with a very low learning curve.

    It sounds like Yahoo wants to be the 2010s version of AOL -- universally accessible content at the risk of alienating the gearheads, who don't read Yahoo for tech news anyway.

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:23PM (#45899071) Homepage

    Yahoo actually thinks it is "targeted" at "gear heads"? ROTFL

    I know some very technical people who have worked AT yahoo. I don't know a single one that actually uses yahoo services (except occasionally for anonymous email accounts) or takes yahoo seriously in any way.

    Yahoo is already, and has been for some time, the default home page of non-technical people above the age of 50. If they are looking for a problem with their targeting it is right there in the fact that they don't realize this....this is already their audience.

  • I was a Pogue fan for about 5 minutes. Then I read his column. And saw him on NOVA. Ugh. He has a face for IRC and a style for grade school. Which apparently go well together.
  • Sounds like they are positioning themselves to be the next AOL.

  • I stopped going to Yahoo ever since they went away from a clean, readable format to their flashy new designs that are far less friendly. Everything is aligned left and leaves half the real estate on my screen blank.
  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @02:13PM (#45899711)
    From Gulliver's Travels [wikipedia.org]

    A Yahoo is a legendary being in the novel Gulliver's Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift.

    Swift describes them as being filthy and with unpleasant habits...the term "yahoo" has come to mean "a crude, brutish or obscenely coarse person".

  • by TheloniousToady ( 3343045 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @02:27PM (#45899879)

    David Pogue is the perfect yahoo [wikipedia.org]. He'll fit right in at Yahoo. Like them, he's constantly pulling stunts that he - and only he - finds amusing. Whether this is pure self-indulgence or just some sort of bewildered misconception of what he thinks the public wants is unclear, but it shows no sign of abating. And even when he comes up with some potentially interesting content, such as his recent NOVA segments, he manages to annoy and alienate the public to the point of making them switch to another channel. Just like Yahoo.

  • This is about the stupidest strategy I can imagine. Ignore the high-earning techies and market yourself to "normal", presumably lower earning people?
    If I was a stock holder for Yahoo, I'd be dumping it big time now.

  • Yahoo is still going and people still use it? Pogue is good for kids but, yes a douche for anyone past 15. The New York Times is an overrated and oft discredited rag. It just happens to be maybe the best of a very, very bad lot. And that was his last gig. His opinion does not matter. Next.

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