Poor Yahoo

Yahoo’s a mess. Well, we already knew that (and I do tend to beat them up rather often). But looking at the Huffpo/Slate/Yahoo debate episode, it hit me anew what a mess they are. Consider:

* Their spokesman tells Wired.com that users will be able to mash-up the videos (it was, after all, called the Mash-up Debate), then tells them that users can’t, then Arianna Huffington says they can, and now they can. Sort of. (I ranted based on the Wired report and the spokesman’s words and then corrected that when I got email from Arianna. I emailed back to her that I do think Huffpo could have done a better job of this debate on their own.)

* From the main debate page, I can find no link to, reference about, explanation of the separate mash-up site and what you may do there, can you?

* From the mash-up site at JumpCut, I cannot figure out how to start mashing. Steve Garfield’s a smarter guy than I, so he did manage to mash: “It takes some work though since the online interface isn’t as direct as that of a desktop editor. . . ” It’s supposed to be easier than a desktop editor; it’s that the idea? I can’t tell whether you can add your own commentary, which would make it a true mashup. Can you? There is, however, a nice “remix” link on Steve’s mashup, taking me to the editor (ah, there is is) and allowing me to redo what he redid. I like that.

* From the main debate page, I can find no way to get the embed code to put the clip on my blog and spread promotional goodness to Yahoo and its partners. Can you?

* As near as I can tell, one has to go to the Yahoo video page and search for the debate video and then get the embed code.

* But once embedded, the next user who wants to embed it can’t get the code from the player and has to go through the same search (or at least I can’t find it).

It’s as if Yahoo put a condom on their video to prevent viral spread.

* The debate fell off the Yahoo home page quickly. So much for Yahoo’s promotional firehose (their frequent phrase). So I try to find it again. It should be in Yahoo News. But, shockingly, I don’t find “news” in their navigation (can you?); God knows how it got so popular. I have to click on a “more news” link in the box in the center of the page to get to the Yahoo News home page. From there, I find a small promo.

* From the Yahoo Video home page, I find no mention of the debate.

* From the Jumpcut home page, I find no mention of the debate.

Perhaps I’m just blind and these pages do carry some of the elements I can’t find. Still, it’s not a good sign that I can’t find them.

So imagine you heard there was this cool debate mash-up thing on Yahoo. I dare you to go to Yahoo and find it and embed a video in your blog and then mash-up some video. When will you give up?

Mind you, Yahoo’s power is supposed to be that it is a portal — a path to finding and doing things. But it makes it damned difficult to get to either. That’s both a failure of Yahoo as a portal and, I think, of portals as a whole.

Maybe Jerry Yang should have given himself more than 100 days to figure out how to fix this thing.

: LATER: See this Adweek story (via PaidContent) about the wisdom of spreading out past the portal, as Google has — WWGD? — yet Yahoo is still sticking to its portal model:

In late 2004, Yahoo CEO Terry Semel, speaking at the Association of National Advertisers, used a familiar metaphor for the company’s strategy: a digital theme park that tempts visitors with endless attractions to get them to stay inside the gates. Analysts credited the strategy for reviving the company’s fortunes following the dot-com bust.

The problem is, we don’t like gates.

“It’s a reflection of consumer behavior,” said Bryan Wiener, CEO of digital agency 360i. “They’ve been disaggregating themselves. They’re spending less time on portals and spreading themselves to blogs and elsewhere.”

Google recognized that early on by stitching together a far-flung network of sites that now accounts for over half its revenue. That’s led Yahoo and fellow Internet 1.0 portals AOL and MSN to expand in a similar way. . . .

The shift from portal-centric strategies comes hand in hand with the rise of user-generated content and social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook redirecting consumer Web behavior away from marquee sites, according to analysts. . . .

Yet the portal is not going anywhere soon, said Todd Teresi, svp of display marketplaces at Yahoo. Instead, it will continue to serve a key role in collecting a trove of behavioral data about consumers that can then be used to target advertising to them when they leave Yahoo’s gates for other sites.