Yahoo's marketing boss on football, millennials and the 'super-hip' Tumblr space
A view from Robert Bridge

Yahoo's marketing boss on football, millennials and the 'super-hip' Tumblr space

The vice-president of international editorial and marketing at Yahoo, Robert Bridge, looks back on his January, reflecting on the importance of passion, feedback, communication and...

The beauty of working at a company like Yahoo, with websites visited by more than 1bn people every month, is that it’s a brand that touches all consumer passion points.

We process a staggering amount of data, more than 165bn data points per day 

Sports and music are two of our key marketing pillars for attracting millennial audiences, and in the latter half of last year we had significant wins with live streams on Yahoo, including an NFL game that delivered more than 33.6m views, with 33% of traffic from outside the US, and a Little Mix album launch party.

As well as heading international marketing, last year my role expanded to include responsibility for our international editorial teams, so I cover all markets outside the US. I’ve been looking at expanding our footprint in sports and music.

This year promises to be particularly exciting on the latter front, with the T20 World Cup in India, the modern-day home of cricket; UEFA’s expanded Euro 2016 football tournament in France, with four of the five British and Irish teams among the qualifiers; the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (will the city be ready?); and – rounding it off – golf’s Ryder Cup with a new, nerveless, US talisman, Jordan Spieth, hoping to bring win bragging rights. In addition to supporting these events editorially on Yahoo Sport, we’ll centre our marketing efforts on them.

Developing the team

Closer to home, I hope that the mighty Pitshanger Under-8s football team, who have the dubious accolade of having me as co-coach, will win more than they lose, and that none of the bigger teams poaches any of our top players.

Attracting and retaining talent is not only important with young footballers, it’s also key in my role at Yahoo. The digital industry is fast-paced and dynamic, which, coupled with Yahoo’s reputation for nurturing high-performing individuals, means we place paramount importance on ensuring each member of our team can develop to their full potential.

New York is a great city, although London shades it slightly for me – more variety to the architecture and better chocolate

One of the ways we develop our teams, and ourselves as leaders, is through constant feedback, whether one-to-one or more formally in scheduled reviews. Additionally, all ‘Yahoos’ complete a wide-ranging, anonymous, annual survey encompassing all areas of the business. 

This past month I received my team’s data – opening the file is a little like getting your exam results, a mix of intrigue and nervousness, especially as the survey had five questions on my performance. Feedback is a gift; it’s one of the areas on which we’ll continue to place emphasis is developing our managers. Yahoo has relatively flat team structures and managers often have wide remits, so it’s vital that they all are invested in accordingly.  

Analysis and interpretation of data has been a theme this month, as it is increasingly for most marketers. Employee feedback data has been one area, the other, a big user-segmentation analysis overlaid with our engagement data.

We process a staggering amount of data, more than 165bn data points per day. As well as using this to help advertisers and agencies optimise campaigns, we also use it to inform our marketing, personalise editorial content and drive our product development.

Constant change – and travel

The interaction between editorial, product and engineering is a fascinating part of my role. A few weeks ago I attended a meeting in New York where we reviewed data from the recent launch of our Yahoo News sites. Over the past six months, and into 2016, we’ll continue to roll out new Yahoo sites, built on a Tumblr-based platform to help drive exponential growth in organic and social referrals from mobile devices.

My wife and two young sons are fairly tolerant of the time I’m away, as long as I return with a few packs of Match Attax

The evolution of the industry, especially the mobile shift and social-sharing of content, is so rapid that it’s vital to be in lockstep with our engineers and constantly update the UI and product algorithms.

While in New York I visited our super-hip (does that make me old, writing those words? Probably…) Tumblr offices and managed to catch up with a couple of old mates.

New York is a great city, although London shades it slightly for me – more variety to the architecture and better chocolate. In this job, travel is a constant. With team members on four continents and Yahoo’s HQ in Silicon Valley, my British Airways Tier Points are always topped up. Which is helpful when taking the family on holiday – they love sitting outside the lounge while I sip Champagne…

My wife and two young sons are fairly tolerant of the time I’m away, as long as I return with a few packs of Match Attax (my wife is a big fan).

Getting the balance right between work and home is not always easy. However, I try to work intensively during the week and make the weekends and holidays as sacred as possible. Life is indeed crazy busy but never, ever dull, and I reckon that’s a good thing. My mantra, taken from an old Australian