Yahoo’s big data play Genome is smart, but …

Yahoo (s yhoo) is looking to leverage its big data prowess with a new tool for marketers called Genome. A combination of data, analytics and technology derived from its interclick acquisition and advertising deals with Microsoft (s msft) and AOL (s aol), Yahoo says Genome helps marketers “understand consumer needs, anticipate audiences’ future performance, and … develop efficient media buys.” It’s a smart use of Yahoo’s vast collection of data and in-house analytic expertise, but, as with all things Yahoo, the big concern is that it’s too little, too late.

Yahoo has had a tough few years, no less so this weekend with its CEO’s resignation, but Genome is a breath of fresh air. In some ways, it looks like an acknowledgement that while Yahoo might not rule search or social or, well, any facets of the web, it knows a heck of a lot about analytics. That’s true — as I pointed out yesterday. Yahoo’s heavy investment in (and use of) Hadoop was great for the community, but Yahoo never really evolved its core web platform business in a way that allowed it to make full use of its newfound smarts.

Genome remedies that problem, albeit with a rather sharp left turn. One might look at is as Yahoo’s way of saying, “We need a new channel for making money, so we’ll just sell you analytics as a service.” It’s not an unheard of idea: Google does it to some degree with the aptly named Google Analytics and Google Trends, as well as its growing list of services such as BigQuery and Prediction API. But Genome is broader and more targeted at the same time. It’s clearly designed for marketers, but it provides data from a variety of non-Yahoo sources and even lets users integrate some of their own data.

As we’ve reported recently, analytics services targeting online marketing budgets are a big business right now, and Yahoo should be a welcome addition to the party — maybe it can even be a VIP. In a space dominated by startups and smallish private companies, Yahoo is something of a big fish. Perhaps this is the beginning of pivot in business models that could give Yahoo new life.

My colleague Ki Mae Huessner was at the unveiling of Genome at Internet Week Monday morning, where she said Yahoo’s Rich Riley announced it onstage with Oakland A’s general manager and Moneyball inspiration Billy Beane. Riley said what Beane is for baseball, Yahoo wants to be for advertising. I assume Riley was talking about using analytics to help Genome users stay in the race against larger, richer competitors. For Yahoo itself as a web platform, the scrappy-underdog-that-triumphs ship might might have sailed.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user Gunnar Pippel.