I wrote yesterday about Yahoo's new (beta) hyperlocal websites - currently live in a few dozen US neighbourhoods but with big plans to expand to a footprint of 400,000 contributors. Yahoo's ambition to fill their local sites with original reporting makes this a potentially big deal for both the company and the hyperlocal space, but a massive pool of writing talent isn't all thay Yahoo brings to this party. In fact, hyperlocal makes genuinely intelligent use of Yahoo's notoriously diverse portfolio of acquisitions and there is the potential - perhaps for the very first time - to actually tie together a lot of Yahoo's bolt-on acquisitions as part of a coherent strategy.
Let's start with the news, which for this project Yahoo is both creating and aggregating. Yahoo is the web's most popular news site (not just aggregator but news website of any kind), by a factor of almost two. Say what you want about other people having better tech or better content, from an audience point of view what Yahoo does to aggregate news really works. For another, what Yahoo is pulling together here is genuinely good, relevant content - a combination of existing local blogs, local events, movies listings and original local content.
More importantly, much - maybe even most - of what Yahoo is "aggregating" is Yahoo's own content. Events are from Upcoming (acquired Oct 2005). Movie listings are Yahoo Movies. Original local content comes out of the new Yahoo Contributor Network (acquired as Associated Content May this year). The original local content may well be the killer feature across these sites, but it's far from being the only hyperlocal asset that Yahoo has brought to bear.
Does it get us any closer to that $21bn question "what is Yahoo?" In a small way, it does. Yahoo is a bunch of websites (a more generous man might say "portfolio"). Some of these are absolute world-class market leaders (Flickr is perhaps the cause célèbre, and Yahoo's own Answers product kicked Google out of the ring back in 2oo6); some, while facing major new challenges, are still solid cash-cow legacy businesses (Yahoo mail, Yahoo Finance); and many are bolt-on acquisitions that have never hitherto fit into any sort of broader strategy (Upcoming, Delicious). Local looks like something that might bring a lot of these disparate properties finally together. Has Yahoo therefore finally found its way with local? As it turns out, local may be the glue that holds Yahoo together.