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Internet, Mobile, IT and industry in Korea

Interview Jinsoo Kim – Representative director Yahoo! Korea

dsc04235Do you receive directions from the USA ?

Yes, for some part. I have to comply with the corporate direction, so I have to take it into consideration when I make the local strategy. But as you know, in order to succeed we have to consider the local users needs.

And they don’t know much about this at Sunnyvale, right ? I guess you have quite a lot of freedom in your everyday decisions ?

There are some constraints as you know but I have some degree of freedom to run the business here. About 2 years ago, we set up regional office so I don’t directly communicate with the guys in the US but through the regional office in Tapei.

Which are the main differences between Yahoo ! Korea and its main competitors like Naver or Daum and which features are specific to Yahoo ! Korea ?

First of all, I took my new role in 2007 and I had three different strategies :
-openness : in order to compete on this market, we need to have more good quality content so I tried to get some content from outside, from partners and from individual users, from the bloggers.
-another is globalization. Yahoo ! is known as a global company but we haven’t done that much in that regard so I tried to get some content from outside and put it into our network. For example, we are running a top of bloggers and some of them are getting content from Japan, US, China and translate those contents in Korean to provide them to Korean users.
-third one is personalization. Even if we have a lot of contents, these contents are not relevant to every user, that is why I emphasized on personalization. One personalization method is called implicit personalization. In order to use My Yahoo ! you have to set preferences but I think the reasons we are not succeeding with My Yahoo ! in the Korean market is because people are not willing to do that.

So it has to be automatic ?

Yes, automatically. For example, if you visit Yahoo ! Korea there is a news module and when a user click some content then  we can automatically push relevant content next time. It is not for everybody. We don’t know users behaviour if they don’t visit frequently. For frequent visitors, we provide one tab called personalized news so that they can find more relevant content there.

Do they have to login or do you use cookies ?

No, just by cookies. Other thing I’d like to add is that editing is very important as there are more and more content, too many content, so we have to select quality content. Before, editors do that work by intuition. I asked engineers to make a tool to track the clicks. If there is a low number of clicks during a certain period of time, they can switch for new content. That is different from our competitors and from Yahoo ! in other countries.

And which are the features people are using the more ?

The most frequently used module is news, people click a lot and we update frequently.

Which kind of news ?

The most popular are entertainment news and sport news. Sometimes political and economic news. These days people are very sensitive to economic news. Most of the clicks are made on the frontpage. News is number one and second one is search. Third one is blogs. The second module below news is for blogs. We give money to individual bloggers to keep posting 2-3 times a week. One blog can attract more than 100,000 visits a day. We selected bloggers in 2007 under the project named 100 top bloggers to be come Yahoo ! top bloggers

Which subjects are popular ?

Sometimes historical contents, artistic ones…

We talked about User Generated Content. It is an opportunity for you to have free content, but at the same time, quality can be very uneven and sometimes users can feel overloaded ?

When we think about web 2.0, UGC, we have to think from two different perspectives : the reader perspective and the content generator perspective. We are dealing with 4.3 millions users but only couple of thousands are really generating their own quality content. So first of all , we figured out who are the top bloggers, we payed them. We have also blog search which ranks bloggers based on queries and an algorithm, every day. By using blog search, readers can easily find which bloggers are the best. Also I’d like to further emphasize we filter the quality and divide blogs in categories so  that users can easily access to contents.

Do you take into account votes or comments from readers ?

We are not doing that yet, but we are thinking about such features for blogs selection. We have Buzz running in the US and my plan is to add this feature to Yahoo ! Korea.

Is it working well in the US, because we mainly hear about Digg ?

I heard that Buzz is working better than Digg, that is good news. But users have to login to access this buttons. We would like to get rid of this.

Recently Google and Yahoo ! seal a deal here in Korea on Maps. Here, Google and Yahoo ! are not the big players, is it the only reason ?

I think the reason is quite obvious. Some engineers from Google and Yahoo ! came to us to have this kind of deal. We reviewed the proposition. They are very good with Youtube and video contents and we are very strong in local contents. So by exchanging we can better work.

You easily got the OK from Sunnyvale ?

Some peope had concerns, but it went very well.

Do you have any other project of partnership ?

No. But the basic principle is to think from a very pratical perspective, instead of political reasons. We need the market. This is the biggest goal. So we can continue to do this kind of things. And they are not exactly competitors in the market, so we work together and increase our market share.

How do you think the average Internet starting page will look like in couple of years ?

I have to talk from two different perspectives. One is visual/design and the other is content. From the visual/design perspective, if you remember when Yahoo ! opened it just had links, no images, except for the logo; that changed a lot. We are trying to meet users’ needs. I don’t know if we are meeting users ‘ expectations as much as they would like but we try to do that. Also, the frontpage is considered as the corporate brand identity so we have a quite similar look and feel as the US version. And from the content point of view, we introduced images and video modules at the bottom of the page. Contents are getting richer. Also the contents are getting more and more relevant to individual users by applying personalization features. But the evolution is different from country to country. In Korea, the Internet infrastructure is good so we can put more on the frontpage compare to other countries.

Finally, what are your plans for the mobile version of the site ?

We have to prepare for that, but I don’t have much room to think about that. For now we have to focus on PC, and after we have succeeded, we will have to gradually migrate to other devices like mobiles or IPTV.

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2 Responses

  1. Miss Corea says:

    My question is: How come the games Astinel and Abyss in Yahoo! Korea are NOT accessible to US users now? It used to be, but now it’s not. Who and why made such a decision?

  2. Silverwhisper Mistystar says:

    I agree with Miss Corea; why could’nt have Yahoo! Korea sold them to UK/US users. I can’t even assess my former Yahoo! account, even when I tried to login in Yahoo.com.

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