Yandex to change the main page after closing the deal with VK

Yandex to change the main page after closing the deal with VK

Yandex will abandon the news aggregator and promote ya.ru as its new main page, the company announced after concluding the sale of the Zen and News platforms. 

Ya.ru will become the “key entry point” into Search, Mail and other Yandex services. “The company will also launch a new application for Android called Yandex with Alice,” the statement says. 

The Search engine will be the core of the new page. “On ya.ru, users will have access to universal search—to search for anything anywhere, search verticals—to be able to find, for example, images or products, and Alice—to quickly get answers,” the company adds.

According to a statement posted by VK, VK and Yandex signed binding agreements whereby VK is to acquire Zen and News. The deal is expected to be closed by the end of 2022. Then VK will receive rights to the services’ technologies and trademarks.

After the deal closes, both Zen and News will be available on the dzen.ru portal, which will also provide a search bar by Yandex as well as other services. Zen will retain all its current content monetization tools for creators.

“Integration with VK will open up access for Zen’s content creators to new users as well as new formats. In the meantime, users will be able to enjoy even more quality content, from education to entertainment,” CEO of VK Vladimir Kirienko noted. According to him, the Zen team will be given the opportunity to develop independently. 

Yandex, in turn, announced the acquisition of Delivery Club—a food delivery service that had previously belonged to VK. Yandex will further develop the brand. Its application and website will continue their operation. Delivery Club will also join the single technological platform with Yandex.Eda.

RBC informed of the Yandex’s plans to sell News and Zen back in March. A source pointed out that Yandex intended to “focus on developing the search, technology, and city services.” According to another RBC’s source, the thought of selling the two platforms arose four or five years ago, since Yandex wished to be a technology company, while Zen was “becoming more of a social network.” 

As for the News service, it has caused “a lot of criticism on all sides”; for example, in 2019, a State Duma member suggested that search engines were “purposely escalating the socio-political situation,” after the report on deputies proposing to ban the use of old cars had been shown at the top of the Yandex news feed.

During a meeting with employees held in March, after the special military operation in Ukraine had already started, head of Zen Anton Frolov explained that Yandex needed to focus on something that “under no circumstances can be politicized in any way.” “In the current conditions, it is impossible to simultaneously continue to engage in content and information services that affect a large number of people, and not fall under various types of pressure, both from the inside and from the outside,” Mr. Frolov said. Therefore, according to him, the company could no longer engage in content projects, and selling Zen and News to another company would be the most probable option. 

In April, VK informed that it had signed an agreement for the purchase of the two services and the parties had agreed on the main terms of the deal.

The Yandex.News service was launched in 2000. According to the company, it has a daily audience of over 10 million people. Zen, that has been operating since 2017, had over 22 million daily active users in 2021. The service creates an individual feed of content based on the interests of a user. Bloggers who publish their content on Zen can earn money from advertising.