Yahoo to Offer Own Original News Content

Hires War Correspondent for Web Series

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Yahoo for the first time will offer its own original news content, hiring a freelance correspondent to visit war zones and file multimedia reports from around the world.

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The reporter, Kevin Sites, will file stories in a regular feature called "In the Hot Zone." Mr. Sites said he would travel to 31 war-torn areas such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan, with state-of-the-art gear packed into a backpack. Mr. Sites, who has worked for NBC and CNN, will file reports as audio/video, text, photos or all three, and he plans a blog and an interactive question-and-answer area for readers.

News from wire services
Although Yahoo is consistently rated among the top one or two highest-trafficked news sites each month, according to online measurement service Nielsen/NetRatings, the portal has produced none of its own content. Yahoo aggregates news from wire services including Reuters and the Associated Press.

Neil Budde, general manager of Yahoo News, said Yahoo will continue its relationship with these partners.

News providers, from wire services to TV networks, are making an all-out push to upgrade their online content and inventory. In addition to upgrading their broadband-enabled video content, they have hired dedicated Web reporters and salespeople, and made acquisitions of online companies. News Corp., parent of Fox News, has made some aggressive moves lately, having set aside around $1 billion for Internet-related acquisitions to bolster its news, sports and general entertainment businesses.

Yahoo's decision to try original programming may be a move to keep up with these other initiatives.

Signature event
Yahoo has also been promising a "signature event" on the Internet since Lloyd Braun, formerly the head of ABC Entertainment Television Group, took the reins at Yahoo's media division nearly a year ago. This is the first of many original content initiatives that Mr. Braun will oversee, said Scott Moore, vice president of content operations at Yahoo media group, which is based in Santa Monica, Calif.

Mr. Moore said the overall goal was to drive traffic on the site and keep users engaged with content longer. He also said he hopes the program will attract the 18- to 34-year-old demographic, a group that is invaluable to advertisers but not big consumers of news. He said Yahoo research shows that this group would, however, be interested in more international coverage. He did not announce sponsors for "Hot Zone," but said blue-chip brands, such as technology companies and auto makers, have expressed interest.

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