Buyer beware: Here’s what Yahoo’s new owner is (not) getting on mobile

By Robbie Allan

This week Yahoo entered the final stages of the sale process for its core business. It appears that the responsibility for running Yahoo as we know it will soon fall to someone new.

As interested parties enter their final bids, we’re taking a look at what value (or lack of value!) Yahoo is offering those potential owners on mobile.

Yahoo’s mobile apps fare much worse than its web properties

To quantify the extent to which Yahoo has been able to translate its desktop incumbency to mobile apps, we looked at the monthly unique audiences of the largest properties on both the web (data courtesy of the New York Times) and and on mobile (using data from SurveyMonkey Intelligence).

With the third-largest site on the web, Yahoo has an audience only 20% smaller than that of Google, the market leader. On mobile, in terms of monthly unique users, Yahoo just barely makes the top 10, where its audience is 80% smaller than Google, who is again the market leader.

Being a top 10 publisher on mobile seems pretty respectable at first blush. However, looking more closely at Yahoo, we see that it is effectively absent from some of the most valuable categories like social and messaging, most of its apps are minor players in their respective categories, and its strengths are limited to relatively small niches

Social and messaging apps dominate mobile, but Yahoo is conspicuously absent

As the primary way for consumers to access the internet has shifted from desktop computers to smartphones, consumer attention (and ad dollars) have drifted from news websites to social and messaging apps. Social and messaging apps are the most-used categories of apps on smartphones, as defined by both unique users and days used per month.

In these important categories, Yahoo’s presence through Tumblr and Yahoo Messenger hardly rates against category leaders Facebook and Messenger.

How to read this chart: each colored bar represents the size of Yahoo’s mobile app audience in each category as a percentage of the largest app in that category. Yahoo is the largest app in fantasy sports and stock quotes, so is 100%.

In several mobile app categories, Yahoo is a player, but not a big one

Americans spend billions on sports each year, yet Yahoo Sports attracts only a fraction of the audience of ESPN.

Despite revamping and re-releasing Yahoo Weather and seeing an increase in active users, it’s still dwarfed by The Weather Channel app.

Likewise, revamps of the Yahoo Mail app have not helped Yahoo claim a leading position in that category.

In each of these categories, the leading app has an audience four to five times larger than Yahoo. While these are large and important categories, there’s little value in having minor market share.

Yahoo’s mobile strength is in just a couple of niche categories

In both Fantasy Sports and Finance, Yahoo leads the category. Yahoo’s Fantasy Sports apps are larger than ESPN’s, as Yahoo Finance is larger than Bloomberg.

For Yahoo’s future owner, these categories are the ones to focus on, to ensure that Yahoo first maintains and then extends its category dominance.

Conclusion

At the start of her tenure, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer remarked that Yahoo would have to become a “predominantly mobile company”. A string of expensive acquisitions and a slew of high-profile product launches have achieved triple-digit growth in Yahoo’s mobile audience and mobile revenue. Yet this growth off a small base has not been enough for Yahoo to establish a meaningful presence on mobile, especially in the categories that count.

This post originally appeared on July 20, 2016 on the blog of SurveyMonkey Intelligence, a provider of competitive intelligence for the mobile app industry.

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