Yahoo Tech wants you to get off its lawn

January 7

Marissa Mayer, president and chief executive officer of Yahoo, delivers a keynote speech at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, on Tuesday. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

In her Tuesday keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced a major expansion of the firm's homegrown content business. That includes a new technology site, called Yahoo Tech, that will be anchored by former New York Times tech columnist David Pogue. It debuted today, and it appears to be focused on catering to old people.

Deb Amlen, for example, has a column about "'selfies,' or why I'm worried about our youth." She's baffled at the way kids these days are using their smartphones to take pictures of themselves and share them with their friends.

"From what I can tell, selfies are apparently a way to convince the alien overlords who will eventually take over our planet that we are actually a race of weird-looking birds who would be totally useless as slaves," Amlen writes. "For reasons that are not clear, the poses adopted while doing this are named after birds."

Pogue doesn't take this kind of overt get-off-my-lawn tack in his welcoming essay, but he makes clear that Yahoo Tech will be a site dedicated to people who are confused by, and perhaps a bit frightened of, modern technology. "I’m not a gearhead," he declares. "If I were, I’d steer you to Engadget, AnandTech or Tom’s Hardware." Yahoo Tech is designed to be a site for "the rest of us."

And "the rest of us," apparently, spend a lot of time worrying about the ways modern technology could harm our children. A piece by Dan Tynan advises parents on how to shield their kids from the perils of Facebook. He runs down the "three biggest threats" to teenage kids and advises parents on how to tackle them.

Tynan concedes that Facebook is "a pretty cool way to reconnect and stay in touch with long lost friends and relations." But that's a distinctly middle-aged way of looking at the platform. For many younger users, Facebook is central to their social lives, not just a way to catch up with long-lost acquaintances.

Evidently, frightening parents about modern technology will be a regular theme for Tynan. Last week's column was about "Five Mobile Apps That Should Scare the Pants Off Parents."

In a Monday post, Pogue answers the question: "Can my smartphone be used as a hearing aid?" A reader wants to know whether hearing-impaired users can use the voice-recognition features of smartphones to get a quick transcript of what someone is saying. Pogue says this can work, though "there are lots of errors."

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with creating a tech site for older readers. It's a big audience that's not well served by other technology Web sites that tend to be geared to "gearheads."

The problem is that the older readers Pogue seems to be targeting mostly get their news from newspapers and nightly news programs, not Web sites. So while the potential audience is enormous, it's not clear how many of them are interested in actually reading technology news on a Web site, no matter how shamelessly it panders to them.

Still, if anyone can do it, it's Yahoo. Yahoo's search and e-mail products have a huge audience that tends to skew older and less tech-savvy than Google or Facebook. Perhaps when those users log in to read e-mail from their grandchildren, Yahoo can entice them to read a story or two about the dangers those grandkids face online.

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