Meredith Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem
December 20, 2008
Last week Yahoo began laying off 1,500 staffers in an effort to reduce expenses by $400 million annually. Not known is if the brain trust behind the content for the Featured box on the site’s home page will remain employed.
With the main story rotating every half hour or so, the Featured box is often times relevant. Other times, not so much. A celebrity news story (generally just a link to another site) usually hits the Yahoo homepage on average about a week or so after pretty much every other entertainment magazine, TV show and website on the planet has reported it, produced a follow-up and then moved on to something else.
Sometimes, however, the Yahoo homepage lags way more than a week in its gossip reports. Like its scoop a few days ago that the adopted daughter of one of the sons of gazillionaire investor Warren Buffett was disinherited (two years ago) because she participated in a documentary about the offspring of the world’s wealthiest 1 percent ” “Richest man’s cut-off kin.” (The story said that Buffett did pay for the education of his estranged adopted granddaughter and she now lives on $40,000 a year. Cry me a river, the grandchildren of Bernard Madoff are undoubtedly saying.)
What it lacks in breaking Hollywood news though, Yahoo more than makes up for in the romance department. With all due respect to Dr. Joyce Brothers, Dr. Phil and Wilt Chamberlain, Yahoo has emerged as the foremost expert in all things amore. The site nurtures relationships from beginning to end. Or at least from middle to end.
While Yahoo starts off some days with features like, “Wallet-friendly ideas for special date nights,” often times the tone takes a dark turn just hours later with links to stories like, “The top reasons women cheat” or “Warning signs of cheating husbands.”
“Breakup warning signs,” “What to say to your partner once you decide the relationship has run its course,” “Advice on ending your relationship for good,” and then “How to say it’s finally over,” are usually not far behind. There’s little doubt that all parties should have moved on once “Rules for dating after a breakup” pops up in the Featured box. The root of all relationship problems though, according to Yahoo? “Romantic comedies may be ruining your love life.”
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Some days Yahoo watches out for America’s collective waistline with features warning of “Calorie and fat-filled foods at the mall,” “Top five unhealthiest fast food meals” or “The top five cheapest ” but least healthy ” fast food choices.”
And while they’re quick to point out the problem, the Yahoo solution isn’t always optimal. A few times a month they run a “Seven simple dinner recipes for the week” feature. However, at last check, Brown Sugar Meatloaf, Smothered Chicken and All-in-One Spaghetti Frittata weren’t listed on the meal plans of Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig or The Zone.
A favorite pastime of the Yahoo Featured box is to marry two completely different topics, like “Violence and pageantry” (which was neither a Jon Benet story nor a report of a cat fight backstage at the Miss America pageant). “Oprah’s weight and crazy cars” was another recent one (presumably a billionaire yo-yo dieter who counts a private chef and personal trainer among her staff members can’t get upset when her weight makes the front page of the most visited site on the Internet, right?)
But there’s little that Yahoo loves more than a list ” especially one that includes any of Yahoo’s pet topics such as sports trivia, anything that includes some or all of the 50 states, cleanliness, the weather, and jobs that no one ever seems to have, want or get. Recent list highlights include: “The most expensive license plates in America,” “The most and least admired professions,” “The five dirtiest foods,” “Public surfaces that have the most germs,” “Best states for new careers,” “Ten stimulus boomtowns,” “30 the NFL will love” (any of whom can perhaps replace those on yet another list: “NFL’s biggest divas”), “Deadliest natural disasters,” “5 high-paying green jobs” and “Most popular sports jerseys.”
Yahoo also enjoys posting a good old fashioned we’re-guessing-you’re-bored-if-you’re-staring-this-long-at-our-site-so-here’s-a completely-useless-but-marginally-time-consuming-feature-story. Like “How 1900’s predictions fared.” (Way to get that story done just under a decade later.) Or “‘Cool’ reason for most yawning.” “Secrets fingerprints reveal.” “Explore myths that blood type affects personality.” “Hear an aquarium of fish make music.”
Finally, the only thing Yahoo covets more than a list and useless feature is a viral video. “‘Jingle Cats’ return [who knew they had left?]: Singing felines belt out favorite Christmas carols in the ‘universal language’ of meows” was a highlight this past week. So was “Braids of steel: Watch this young woman attempt to pull an empty bus attached to her hair.” And who among us will ever forget, “Watch a cute kitty gobble up broccoli.” An instant classic, for sure.
Here’s hoping that despite the layoffs, Yahoo will continue to find a way to keep its finger on the nation’s pulse with just one click.