Web 2.0: Yahoo

Yahoo head Terry Semel, being interviewed by John Battelle, says: “Is this a technology company or a media company? You must be great at both.” Interesting echo of what media execs said at the MT&R event last week: They need engineers and technologists as much as they need

: Yahoo “is all about content,” he says. He sees three ways to generate content: user-generated content via Flicr, 360, local; licensed, aggregated and partnered content where Yahoo is a distribution platform; and “designing the future of content… in this broadband world.” He says media companies should look to Yahoo as a distribution platform. That is very much Semel’s strategy: He’s trying to build Time Warner without the shackles of its heritage and deals.

So Yahoo is very much a Media 1.0 company: It’s all about content and distribution. I say it’s not.

: Battelle asks Semel about Yahoo’s behavior in China: “How do align your idea being in the news business and being a service provider?”

Semel prevaricates enough to make his media trainer proud: “Ninety-nine percent if not a hundred percent of what we do is aggregate other people’s news….” He’s trying to say he’s not in the news business and paints the hiring of Kevin Sites as an experiment more than an entry into the news business. And then he says that any international company that operates in China “you’re going to have to unfortunately observe the laws of those countries and they’re stated, they’re not secret.”

: Asked about Google, Semel says that its No. 1 in search but now that it is expanding into news and shopping and services — as Yahoo did — it’s a portal and as a portal “it’s probably No. 4.”

: Asked whether he’ll give a feed of HotJobs to a Google job service, Semel says, “we’ll always be more open than they are.”

: “We think the big change is not just getting more and more unique users to things…. As we go forward, it’s all about deeper engagement, more time spent, more satisfacory experience for users and advertisers.” That’s exactly the buzzlanguage in the ad industry and Semel’s if nothing else cagey about that. It’s a 1.0 media empire. That’s not a bad thing. It will make big money. The question is whether it is built for the future, any more than Time Warner or Disney is.

: He’s asked whether, in five years, he’ll make more money off of user-generated content than media-generated content. He sings the praises of user-generated content (what we know as sharing). Then he says that content will get more and more important on the internet with the spread of broadband. He says that doesn’t mean we’ll spend time on old media in the new medium. But the man loves content. And then he prevaricates and doesn’t answer the question.

: Here’s the funny thing about Yahoo building this gigantic castle of content: I never go there.