Stop the virtual presses. In a deal that hints that Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) isn't about to yield online real estate to rivals like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) without a fight, the popular Web portal will be blending its HotJobs employment recruiting listings with the online want ads at 150 newspapers.
These aren't just tiny rural reads. We're talking about some of the print heavies like TheSan Francisco Chronicle and TheAtlanta Journal-Constitution. In total, Yahoo! will be dealing with seven newspaper publishers including E.W. Scripps (NYSE: SSP ) and Lee Enterprises (NYSE: LEE ) to reach out to the 150 markets in 38 states.
The partnership is about more than just sniffing out job hunters. The partners will also be working on ways to incorporate Yahoo! search, content, and local applications throughout the collection of newspaper websites.
The print world may see this as a way to dig deeper into the new economy, but Yahoo! has even more to gain.
Battling back against Google
Just imagine 150 newspapers with rich legacies and long-standing relationships with local merchants. If these merchants want to advertise on their local paper's website, they will likely go through Yahoo! now. That is huge.
I have been critical of the wading-pool depth of Yahoo!'s ad network. After kicking the tires of Yahoo!'s YPN program versus Google's AdSense for third-party website publishers, it became clear to me that Yahoo! lacked the relevant ad inventory that Google's got in gobs. Well, either that or Yahoo!'s ad targeting technology is flawed (which I doubt). Yahoo! needs to toss out its net a little farther to nab more specialized advertisers, and this is a great way to do that.
Yahoo! will also benefit as the newspapers use Yahoo! to power searches and promote the Yahoo! toolbar. Newspapers feel as if they are getting a technological push in the right direction, yet it's Yahoo! that will be re-establishing its brand. From search to online roadmaps to local venue and event guides, Yahoo! is going to become a trusted resource for those who rely on their local paper's websites for a perpetually updated account of what matters to them.
Beyond the classifieds
Once Yahoo! gets cozy in these local hotbeds, where will this relationship go? A lot is possible. Toss in a few of the more exciting ventures going on at Yahoo! and the future can get pretty tantalizing.
For instance, let's take a look at Flickr, Yahoo!'s hip photo-sharing site. Can it become the first major digital snapshot site to prosper at the local level? Newspapers wouldn't mind user-contributed photography of area sights and local events. What about del.icio.us? Yahoo! recently acquired the edgy shared-memory site, and that's another area just begging for local exploitation.
Want more? The localized job listings that will be powered by the HotJobs engine aren't much of a stretch from having Yahoo!'s dating personals make a splash in area meet markets. Wouldn't it be great if Yahoo! Mail could fuel free local email based on related newspaper domains? That would certainly keep a paper's local audience close.
Naturally, many of these suggestions may not sit well with the staffs of these local papers. If Yahoo! runs a better centralized online ad platform, the days may be numbered for print ad sales teams. If Yahoo! is able to use its syndicated and user-created content to feed traditional media space, how many editorial jobs will be displaced by Web 2.0? Even the mighty New York Times (NYSE: NYT ) has set off the black and white typeset long enough to print out pink slips.
Is all of this too far away? Perhaps. Are you more nervous than excited? If so, you simply aren't reacting to the tea leaves appropriately. There is opportunity in every transition. That's the kind of thinking that fuels the disruptive technology winners that have been singled out in the Rule Breakers newsletter service, and it may just be the catalyst that finally transforms Yahoo! into a company worth believing in on this side of the dot-com bubble.
So, yes, do stop the virtual presses. Start the virtual push.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a convergence junkie, even if it means that he will ultimately be replaced by a more efficient version of himself. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.TheFool has a disclosure policy.