February 18, 2016 Last Updated 7:36 am

Yahoo to shut down seven of its magazines (that were not really magazines, of course)

Morning Brief: Down goes the paywall, up goes the web traffic for UK tabloid The Sun; iOS app updates for CBC News, the Chicago Tribune and NYT Now

The idea that Yahoo is shutting down many of their “digital magazines” is absurd as the idea that Yahoo launched “digital magazines” – they were not magazines, they were subdomains of the Yahoo website. They were better described as digital verticals.

Yahoo-food-screenThe reason the company is shutting them down, though, is the same reason many print or actual digital magazines are shutdown: as a profit center they failed. Most print magazines are launched when the publisher already has either the audience or the advertisers lined up – in the best case scenario both are.

But these verticals were built using the “build it and they will come” formula: hire some editors (some high-priced celebrities), get the IT to create the subdomains, put out a press release to shareholders. What a great way to drive up expenses while pretending to be trying to build revenue.

Leading the editorial effort was Martha Nelson, the former Time Inc. editor-in-chief. Nelson is well known among the traditional print magazine companies, but if Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer thought this would mean anything to ad buyers currently putting their money into Google and Facebook, well, one guesses Mayer is out of her element.

For Nelson, though, the job now means having to be the one to give out the bad news, most of the new “magazines” are being shuttered, their staffs laid off.

“On our recent earnings call, Yahoo outlined out a plan to simplify our business and focus our effort on our four most successful content areas  – News, Sports, Finance and Lifestyle. To that end, today we will begin phasing out the following Digital Magazines: Yahoo Food, Yahoo Health, Yahoo Parenting, Yahoo Makers, Yahoo Travel, Yahoo Autos and Yahoo Real Estate,” Nelson wrote on Yahoo’s Tumblr.

“As we make these changes, we acknowledge the talent and dedication of an extraordinary group of journalists who brought new and newsworthy content to Yahoo. While these Digital Magazines will no longer be published, you will continue to find the topics they covered, as well as style, celebrity, entertainment, politics, tech and much more across our network.”

The move was forced by the decision to layoff 15 percent of Yahoo’s staff following yet another disappointing earnings report. This move covers about 300 of those layoffs.

It is possible that the “magazines” initiative will be the last such attempt to jump start the rebirth of Yahoo. The next move is likely to be a reverse spin-off, where Yahoo web assets are sold off, but the Alibaba stake remains as the new Yahoo. The only question would be who would be the buyer.

Meanwhile, while Yahoo staff gets trimmed, it is unlikely that the company’s CEO is too concerned, her golden parachute is bound to be enormous.

thesun-screenTear down the paywall and traffic goes up. Seems like a simple thing to understand, and the proof of the concept is the website for The Sun, Murdoch’s UK tabloid. The paper claimed a 25 percent increase in web traffic in January.

The paper had pulled down its paywall in time for Cyber Monday, but failed to get a bump in traffic in December. But that bump came in January.

Is the traffic increase real, though? It is odd that every UK newspaper reporting had a substantial increase in web traffic. It is as if UK newspapers were adopting the strategy that US magazines are adopting: declare big gains in audience as proof of the brand’s worth.

Wake me up when it translates into revenue.

A small number of media app updates have appeared this morning:

CBC News: Update fixes a bug that prevented the keyboard from not appearing when attempting to share content.

Chicago Tribune: Update improves the subscription renewal function, adds an FAQ section to support screen, and adds 3D Touch support (which they are calling Peek and Pop).

NYT Now: The New York Times news app that went free recently, fixes some bugs with its latest update.

Also: Microsoft seems to be struggling with its iOS apps for Skype, Today both the iPhone and iPad apps were updated, the fourth update already this year.

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