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iPad for Marketing App review – Yahoo! Livestand

November 16, 2011

Like so many others, I expected Yahoo!’s new Livestand iPad app to give Flipboard and the other personalized magazine and news apps a run for their money. And, Livestand entered the race with every conceivable advantage. Yahoo’s MyYahoo! property is the world’s most popular personalized information portal and RSS reader. And as the web leader in sports and finance, Yahoo has a vast, popular store of original and syndicated content. Yet, sadly, Livestand falls short.

It’s not all bad. The fit and finish are crisp. Yahoo! obviously exploited the talents of a truly pro team of graphic designers. The layout is clean, open, and airy, and the graphics are fresh and interactive. The display is split horizontally to accommodate a half-pane, swipe-to-browse visual menu. There’s very little verbal clutter – just topical pictures to browse.

Users can log in either using Yahoo! or Facebook accounts. I’ve been a Yahoo! user long enough that there’s lots of personal fodder on my MyYahoo! page: sports teams, weather, news groups, favorite modules.  So I expected the personalization to be pretty good. I was disappointed by the content Livestand thought I’d like. Sports and parenting? Yes. But motor cyclist? Not even close.

Users can manually tune the personalization by adding subscriptions to blogs and magazines. Livestand presents a list of categories, including arts and culture, sports, news, and politics. Within each category, Livestand offers a choice of blogs and magazines. Choose a magazine and it’s stored in My Library. Choose a blog and it’s stored in the Personal Mix. It’s not clear why Yahoo! decided to split content this way.

Disappointingly, I not only had to manually tune my interests, but the basics as well. Since I logged in via My Yahoo!, I thought Livestand would at least know my location for things like weather. Not so. The app offered to grab a forecast based on the location fed from my iPad. When I declined, it didn’t display my default location but instead panned through various locations nationwide.

Publishers should note that Livestand has no information on getting your digital content to the app. Your customers can’t even add your RSS feed. Livestand seems to rely solely on the subscriptions users add to their Personal Mix. If your content is featured and someone selects it, you’re one of the lucky ones. But your customers can’t keyword search for content.

For marketers interested in tablet apps, Livestand is worth a look for the advertising, as it is the first of the tablet news aggregators with ads. Our friends at Toyota are currently running an ad on Livestand for the new Prius V. The ad is visually appealing and integrated well into the Livestand content. To see the complete ad, readers simply “tap to expand.” It’s a nice use of the tablet environment. While the ad is expanded, readers can “tap to animate” to learn more about the car in a whimsical game-like environment. Unfortunately the fun (and HTML 5) ends when you click through and land on the generic Prius page on the Toyota mobile site.

   Overall, aside from having a promising ad-revenue-based business model, the app just doesn’t make sense. Livestand clearly doesn’t know a whole lot about me that I don’t tell it manually. And while it’s laid out neatly, the app really isn’t that intuitive to access or use. In short, Livestand fails to deliver on its promise.

The Final Verdict

The reader experience: C. It’s functional and pretty for users looking to browse content in pre-selected areas of interest. The depth of content is impressive. But for all that Livestand should know given its access to My Yahoo! and Facebook accounts, the apps is not really personalized.

The publisher experience: D. If your content is mainstream, it’s more likely to be picked up by Livestand. But if your content is something users have to search for, good luck.

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