With some fanfare, Yahoo today unveiled its new women’s site, Shine, with content contributions from lots of big companies including Conde Nast, Hearst, Rodale, and Time Inc. (though I find little evidence of them on the site; most of my clicks took me to stuff written by Shine staff, which doesn’t look small; others too me to snippets from magazines made to look like blog posts with lots of plugs to try to get you to subscribe). It has that women’s magazine voice: “Four ways to be good to your body this week…. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy: We think you’re awesome…. Perfect, pretty, sturdy canvas bags…. How to get on your boss’s good side….”
Poor Yahoo. They could cure cancer while tap-dancing naked and I wouldn’t be impressed. They have just gone and tried to create another portals. Portals beget portals. There’s nothing new in this. Having worked at Conde Nast, I went through conversations about starting sites like this with all the other portals many times over. What’s the big?
The problem is that this is born from a spreadsheet rather than a vision. In the PaidContent report, Yahoo svp Scott Moore “explained that for the longest time, Yahoo had been developing sites focused on topics (for instance Food, Sports and others). Now, with Shine, it has started developing site based on audiences/demographics, and in this case a big one, and lucrative to advertisers.” I’ve seen and heard that tap dance before. Beware any product that starts with a demographic that’s going to excite advertisers because it has lots of brands. That’s portalthink at its saddest.
I was amused to run across friend Jonathan Harris’ project for Yahoo: a time capsule to open on the company’s 25 anniversary in 2020 — only 4666 days left, or gobbling up into Microsoft, whichever comes first.
In its story about the latest failure of AOL to find a strategy, the Times repeats a bit of big-media conventional wisdom that should be abandoned: that big is where it’s at and portals are a winning strategy. The Times calls the failure of the AOL portal strategy a “quirk” when it should call this a lesson:
The company’s challenges highlight one of the quirks of today’s Internet market. As advertising is moving from offline media to the Internet at a rapid clip, portals, which command some of the biggest audiences online, should be among the top beneficiaries. Instead, the travails of the mass market portals like AOL, as well as Yahoo and Microsoft, indicate a decline in power.
Once and for all: The size of the site doesn’t matter to advertisers. Oh, yes, they still think its matters and for a time that’s still how they buy, by reflex. But get this straight: Just because a site has 100 million users, that doesn’t mean 10o million people see your ad. It’s not TV. Repeat: It’s not TV. The only people who will see your ad are the ones who see the page on which it appears. If you buy 10,000 impressions, aka eyeballs, you can buy them on a big site or a bunch of small sites, it doesn’t matter. Big brings no advantage other than convenience and it also brings some disadvantages like inefficiency and price. This is the essence of the change in the economic model of media. Post that on your wall and stare at it.
Michael Arrington reports that Bear Stearns says Yahoo should get itself a social network because social networks are the next portal. Here is their entire PowerPoint.
It made me want to scream:
Portals are dead, damnit. They are the last vestige of old-media bigthink, of the misguided belief that media can corral us into masses and that we want to be treated like herds. The essential moral to the story of Yahoo’s decline is that it is a portal and portals don’t work. But here’s Bear Sterns looking for the next portal. Arrrggghhh.
You know what I’m going to say: The real question they should be asking is WWGD — what would Google do? I argued when Terry Semel was bounced that Yahoo should blow itself up and become the unportal, enabling anyone anywhere to take anything from Yahoo and put it on their own sites, feeding content — which Google doesn’t have — and advertising all around the web, becoming the great enabler of social interaction via content rather than buying Facebook. I hope Yahoo doesn’t buy Facebook — even though Bear Stearns now says the value is $5-6 billion (versus the $1 billion Mark Zuckerberg quite wisely turned down) — for I fear that like other things Yahoo buys, it would freezedry it in time, stifling innovation by bringing it into that corral.
The next portal? No, Yahoo is the last portal.