SBJ/January 30 - February 5, 2006/Media

Yahoo! launches original-content drive, hires editor

Yahoo! Sports is rolling out a series of original content initiatives aimed at taking on industry stalwarts ESPN.com and CBS SportsLine.com.

The company recently hired Dave Morgan, formerly deputy sports editor at the Los Angeles Times, as its executive editor, and with his arrival will come a package of expanded news coverage from the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Morgan
Morgan, who spent two decades in the newspaper business and starts at Yahoo! this week, is expected to hire a large stable of full-time writers and columnists, including many accomplished ink-and-paper veterans as more of sports journalism migrates to the Internet.

“The next evolution of Yahoo! starts [today],” said David Katz, Yahoo! head of sports and entertainment. “Up to now, we’ve attracted a loyal audience but done it without making a lot of large investments. What we’re doing now reflects a renewed and strengthened commitment to original content. ESPN obviously has a massive news operation with thousands of people that can’t be replicated overnight, but we’re moving forward we think in a very bold way.”

Yahoo!, whose roots lie as an aggregator of news content from wire services and then as a key player in fantasy sports, has signed deals with former Olympians Jonny Moseley, Eric Heiden, Nikki Stone, John Zimmerman and Bryon Friedman as well as Associated Press writer Bernie Wilson to pen exclusive columns.

The site has procured a series of exclusive video profiles on figure skaters in the Olympics from the U.S. Figure Skating Federation and is planning Olympic editions of its weekly webcast show, SportStream.

During the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, Yahoo! pulled into a virtual tie in Web traffic with ESPN.com and hopes for a similar result next month. December 2005 figures from comScore Media Metrix showed Yahoo! fourth in sports Web traffic behind ESPN, the NFL and Fox Sports.

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