SNL Cast Helps Marissa Meyer Launch Yahoo News Digest

Mayer also announced the first in a series of digital magazines from Yahoo

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Tue, January 07, 2014

IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau) — Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer got some help from "Saturday Night Live" cast members Tuesday when she took the stage at the International CES to announce a new app called Yahoo News Digest.

The app, available now in the App Store, pulls together snippets of news from around the Web and presents it in a twice-daily digest that Yahoo says is more readable than wading through the "tsunami" of news information available on the Web.

Mayer was already seen as the "star power" in the CES speaker line-up, and the fact she was joined by two SNL cast members, as well as journalists Katie Couric and David Pogue, made her keynote a spectacle fitting for Las Vegas.

Cecily Strong, who plays one of the anchors on SNL's Weekend Update news segment, sat at a desk on stage and deadpanned her way through last year's "top tech stories."

"The founders of Snapchat last year turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook and a $4 billion offer from Google," she said. "It was a surprising show of integrity from the guys who invented the app that lets you look at pictures of boobs for five seconds."

SNL's Kenan Thompson, dressed as the Rev. Al Sharpton, also made an appearance and thanked Mayer, whom he referred to as the CEO of "Yoohoo," for having him at the event.

"Who would have thought a small chocolate-milk company like Yoohoo could turn into one of the world's biggest tech giants?" he wanted to know. "It's amazing."

Mayer has worked hard to build up Yahoo's profile as a media company, so it wasn't a surprise to see her launch a news reading app. Couric, who Mayer hired to be Yahoo's "global news anchor," set the stage by decrying the state of today's online journalism. Tenets like accuracy and news judgment take a back seat, she said, and "it's easy to feel like you're drowning in a tsunami of information."

Yahoo News Digest "simplifies news and cures the problem of information overload and 'tl;dr,'" said Yahoo product manager Nick D'Aloisio, employing the abbreviation for "too long; didn't read," a popular rebuttal from people who are sent links online to something to read. D'Aloisio is the British teenager who developed the Summly technology acquired by Yahoo last year, which appears to be at the heart of the new app.

The articles in the digest are "algorithmically produced but editorially curated," he said, without really explaining what that means, but suggesting that computers select the content, which then receives some human oversight.

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