This morning ABC News announced that it was forming a partnership with Yahoo to become the site’s “top digital news source.” The announcement was made on Good Morning America, and described as matching “the number one news site on the web with the country’s premiere news brand.”
The result, they said, is the “new, number one digital news source.” They claimed that this would have an instant reach of 100 million Americans, more than the other major news networks combined.” They later added that programming like Christiane Amanpour’s Around the World could actually reach 700 million global viewers, almost as much as Facebook’s reach.
The new collaboration will get its first major bump this afternoon, when George Stephanopoulos interviews President Barack Obama at 11:35 PT. Like the LinkedIn town hall of last week, online viewers will be able to submit questions for the President.
There will be other web-first content as well, including weekly programs and special reports by ABC star anchors and journalists like Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters and Amanpour.
The announcement could not have come at a better time. Yahoo is struggling to remain relevant against competitors like Google and Facebook, but it recently received negative coverage because of the dramatic firing of CEO Carol Bartz. In fact, it was under Bartz that negotiations for the collaborative venture first began, according to ABC News president Ben Sherwood.
Of course, the partnership also raises some interesting questions about news neutrality. Yahoo is facing financial difficulties, and there is even talk of selling the company, or at least part of it. NBC News is reporting that Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba, would be “very interested” in buying Yahoo.
On the other hand, Ma, who is based in China, has said some interesting things about that country’s attitudes toward censorship. In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer last November, Ma explained Chinese censorship policies by saying, “The Internet has the censorship, maybe 5, maybe 6, or 7 percent. But 90 percent [freedom] is good. Make use of that. And influence people. Improve the society.” Would Diane Sawyer and ABC be willing to accept “90 percent freedom” in their coverage of news stories?
The Business Insider also asks whether users would feel comfortable having their personal information in the hands of a Chinese company. In other words, in a hypothetical worst case scenario, not only would a Chinese corporation have a say in what news is relayed to an American audience. It would also have access to personal information about how Americans respond to it.
“While it isn’t obvious that Yahoo’s business is critical to U.S. national interests, some parties may not want to see such a heavily-used U.S.-based web site acquired by a non-US party,” says Neil Torpey, Chair of the Hong Kong office at U.S. law firm Paul Hastings LLP. The fact that the web site is also the country’s “top digital news source” with a reach of over 100 million would be further cause for alarm.