Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer Is Looking for the Ultimate DJ, and Advertisers

Music competition could be key to winning them and reaching kids

Yahoo's Marissa Mayer says she's a fan of electronic dance music. She once spent a summer in Zurich where dance DJs rule and the world-famous Street Parade techno festival takes place. So, when Simon Cowell came to her at last year's Cannes Lions festival with an idea for the Ultimate DJ competition, Mayer was game.

"I love Yahoo's legacy in music, so I'm very excited about the Ultimate DJ," Mayer said today, just ahead of Yahoo's 2015 NewFronts presentation at Lincoln Center. "We're trying to find the world's best DJ."

On the way, Yahoo might actually find a direct line into today's youth culture. Electronic dance music—or EDM—has a large, young, global fan base that also wants to participate in and shape the content they consume.

Gian LaVecchia, managing partner and head of digital content at MEC Global, thinks Ultimate DJ is one of Yahoo's best opportunities at a hit coming out of this year's NewFronts event and subsequent negotiations with advertisers.

"It's content people care about," LaVecchia said. "It's a passion area, and it gives people an opportunity to participate, which is attractive."

UPDATE: DJ Steve Aoki spun at the presentation. However, he is not a judge of Ultimate DJ, because they have not been announced yet.

On top of Ultimate DJ, Mayer discussed Yahoo's partnership with Live Nation to stream concerts.

"We're really looking to do more with live video," Mayer said, which not only includes music but news and other core categories.

Yahoo is trying to bring some cohesion to a media mix that combines music, sports, news, fashion, technology, Tumblr, TV and advertising technology.

"We're making it clear to advertisers what they're able to buy," said Lisa Utzschneider, svp of Yahoo's America sales. 

Advertisers can buy according to show, as Honda did with Community, the cult-hit TV show Yahoo bought last year.They can also advertise by channel—tech, finance, food, fashion—and by audience, which is the automated side of the platform.

Yahoo has 1 billion users it can target according to their profiles. Last year, Yahoo bought BrightRoll, a video ad network, and Flurry, a mobile app analytics company, both providing a technological layer to bolster advertising across all its content.

Yahoo also announced new Web shows, including Riding Shotgun with Michelle Rodriguez, I Am Naomi with Naomi Campbell, and Thug Kitchen, a food show based on a popular Internet cooking team. It also developed what it's calling a 21st-century Friends, The Pursuit.

Tumblr CEO David Karp also spoke Monday, marking his first public appearance since Yahoo appeared to diminish his role within the larger company. He discussed Tumblr's Creatrs Network, a group of talented users recruited by brands to help with campaigns.

Tumblr, following a small ad sales integration, as Mayer put it, is becoming the heart of native advertising on Yahoo properties.

"The next chapter for Tumblr is how do we maintain that really engaged community, the flavor and brand of that community, while really working on the commercial aspects of it?" Mayer said.