[Posted by David Card]
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On her first earnings call, new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz sounded in control (no Jerry Yang), identified some of the same assets I think are Yahoo’s strongest, and re-affirmed she wasn’t there to sell the company. While Bartz understands Yahoo should be the leading information source on the Web — you know, a "media company" — she still sounds a little naive about Web media and consumers in general. (Revenue will be down 10% in Q1, and Yahoo refused to give guidance for the full year.)
- Among Yahoo’s core assets, Bartz identified its broad and loyal audience, and its leadership position in 11 categories (home page, news, finance, etc.). She knows that Yahoo is the leader in online branding advertising, that that is a good thing, and yet that it’s going to be tough for a little while.
- She said an outsider could too easily arrive with preconceived notions. Like that search should be sold off? However, she stumbled badly trying to make the case that having search and display could be synergistic.
- Bartz sounds like an ops and product manager. That’s good; Yahoo needs both. But she’s not convincing on advertising yet, other than recognizing Yahoo’s advertiser and agency relationships are valuable. She said she hadn’t spent enough time with the whole sales team to judge them, but that she thought Yahoo’s ad sales management was sharp. She’s going to a sales meeting in a couple weeks to drink beers with the sales force. That sounds good, too.
- She equated good products that will "delight" Yahoo auds with integration, relevance, and customization. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. She said some people equate innovation with constant change, but that was wrong: Yahoo users don’t need constant change.
When asked about products for youth audiences, Bartz interpreted that
to mean social networks. She said kids will grow up and then they’ll
learn to depend on Yahoo Finance, because they’d have less time to
"throw pictures up…because they’re off the dole." Amusing, perhaps, but Yahoo — strong in Music, entertainment news, and fantasy sports
— shouldn’t take its eyes of that particular ball. And it’s not just kids that use social networks.
It bugs me a little that she used the
hackneyed trope that fickle youth has moved from MySpace to Facebook,
so "who knows what will capture them next." First, there’s no evidence audiences replaced MySpace usage with Facebook, though the blogerati
would have it so. There’s a lot of overlapping usage, and MySpace still has the numbers in the US. But the real point is that MySpace is making a living on the performance-based display ads that Yahoo can’t make a profit off of, while at the same time it builds out branding-friendly inventory around entertainment.
Neither MySpace nor Facebook targets with super efficiency, but they’re on the job. And both are way farther ahead than Yahoo at figuring out what real social marketing will look like: i.e., tapping communications, behavior, influencers, and word of mouth. Eventually, Yahoo will have to deliver that kind of marketing, whether on its own properties or someone else’s.