Yahoo has finally woken up and done something about mobile as it buys news app Summly, which was created by London teenager Nick D’Aloisio, for a reported $30m (£20m), as it struggles to turn itself and its lacklustre business around.
Summly, which neatly summaries news stories for quick reading on mobile devices, was created two years ago by 17-year-old D’Aloisio.
It delivers snapshots of stories, giving users a simple, elegant and fast way to find the news they want. For publishers, Summly technology offers a new approach to drive interest in stories and reach a generation of mobile users that want information on the go.
Yahoo says it plans to close the app and had it quickly removed from the app store. The new multi-millionaire D’Aloisio will work for Yahoo in London until he finishes school, and will then move to its Sunnyvale headquarters in Silicon Valley.
Yahoo will now try to use the Summly technology to give it a badly needed place in the mobile space where it has been sorely lacking. It is going to be catch-up and you have to wonder how far this acquisition will take it.
Yahoo is all but absent on the mobile web as it is in social media. It has a lot of holes to plug.
The acquisition follows comments in October by Yahoo’s new chief executive Marissa Mayer, who said that mobile was Yahoo’s “top priority”.
Mayer said that Yahoo “hasn’t capitalised” on the mobile opportunity and that it hadn’t effectively optimized its websites.
She said: “We’ve underinvested in our mobile front-end development and we’ve splintered our brands. All of this needs to change.”
Meyer added that the business’s top priority was a “focused and coherent mobile strategy”. She said Yahoo was well positioned in mobile because of its content verticals, such as finance and sport, which consumers wanted to access on their smartphone devices.
Summly won a host of plaudits when it launched and won Apple’s Best Apps of 2012 award for Intuitive Touch. It went on to be downloaded almost a million times as of yesterday, before it was pulled from the Apple app store.
Summly was backed by several high-profile tech investors including telecoms billionaire Li Ka-shing, through his Horizons Ventures, as well as Ashton Kutcher, Stephen Fry (who appears in the video below with D’Aloisio), Spotify’s Shakil Khan and Zynga’s Mark Pincus.
D’Aloisio said “With over 90 million summaries read in just a few short months, this is just the beginning for our technology. As we move towards a more refined, liberated and intelligent mobile web, summaries will continue to help navigate through our ever-expanding information universe.”
Adam Cahan, senior vice-president of Mobile and Emerging Products at Yahoo, said: “Mobile devices are shifting our daily routines, and users have changed not only what, but how much information they consume. Yet most articles and web pages were formatted for browsing with mouse clicks.
“The ability to skim them on a phone or a tablet can be a real challenge – we want easier ways to identify what’s important to us.
“Summly solves this by delivering snapshots of stories, giving you a simple and elegant way to find the news you want, faster than ever before. For publishers, the Summly technology provides a new approach to drive interest in stories and reach a generation of mobile users that want information on the go.”
Shares of Yahoo have risen steadily since Mayer became CEO. Having languished at the $15 (£10) mark they have risen by as much as 50% and last night closed at $23.38 (£15.38).