It does have the audience. In August, Yahoo led the general news category with 81.2 million unique visitors in the United States, according to comScore. CNN, the second-place site, had 75.3 million visitors during the same period while The Huffington Post Media Group had 56.8 million. Nine of Yahoo’s media sites lead their category in traffic.
But Yahoo’s size has failed to translate into revenue growth. Revenue from display ads, the online billboards that appear when a Yahoo Web page is called up on a computer screen, were essentially flat in the first six months of the year, at $1 billion, while the online ad industry grew at about 27 percent.
Yahoo’s problem is that Internet users are spending a bigger portion of their time with Yahoo’s competitors. The percentage of time users spend on Yahoo is down a third from its high three years ago, while the share of the time spent on Facebook has catapulted more than sixfold over the same period, according to comScore.
So how does Yahoo get people to stick around longer? It thinks Yahoo Sports is the model. Over the last few years, sports, more than any other Yahoo media site, bet big on original coverage by hiring reporters and writing original articles.
The investments have led to several prominent scoops. The latest was a yearlong investigation, published in August, that showed widespread violations of N.C.A.A. rules by the University of Miami’s football team. The article received 38 times as many page views as a typical sports article, according to Yahoo.
“There’s nothing like sitting a hotel room, turning on ESPN and seeing on a ticker that Yahoo Sports breaks a story,” Ms. Rosen said. Such citations by other media outlets help to lift Yahoo’s reputation in news, she said.
Yahoo Sports also produces a number of online video shows, including game highlights and Fantasy Football Live.
Yahoo executives still say they believe that professionally produced video appeals to advertisers more than the skating dogs and off-tune singers on YouTube. Partners like ABC also provide shows, keeping costs down, according to Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo’s executive vice president for the Americas. “We aren’t sitting here spending hundreds of millions of dollars creating a new network,” he said.
Indeed, Yahoo now films around 26 shows a month, many of which attract large audiences, at least by Internet standards. Yahoo said that 26 million people watched its original programming in August, more than watched Hulu, the video site backed by several Hollywood studios.
They want to produce even more. Seven new series will have their premieres this week, including one about relationships, two cooking programs and another in which men get advice about making memorable wedding proposals.
Yahoo also tried to acquire Hulu earlier this year, according to a source familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak on the record. It is unclear whether Yahoo’s board plans to press ahead amid the distraction of a strategic review of its business and a potential sale of all or parts of the company.
The possibility of its own buyout or break-up casts a shadow over Yahoo, though all the executives interviewed said that it was business as usual inside the company. Scott Kessler, an analyst at Standard & Poor’s Capital IQ, said that uncertainty was the norm inside Yahoo, which in recent years has had a succession of leadership changes, departures of top executives and the battle to ward off a takeover by Microsoft.
“First they need to stabilize the ship,” Mr. Kessler said, “and then they need to turn it in the right direction.”