Posts about yahoo

The last portal

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.

Pop open that capsule now

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.

Fightin’ words from Google

At Google’s blog today, David Drummond, the company’s chief legal officer and senior VP for development, comes out with phasers set to kill against the Microsoft bid for Yahoo. A week ago in Europe, I ended up at a small dinner and a few other events with Drummond. He’s a serious guy with a stoney glare. I’ll bet he could stare down Steve Ballmer in a contest.

Implicit in Drummond’s and Google’s argument is that Microsoft is a closed company in the open internet. He contends that Google is the better agent of that openness. It sounds rather like a presidential debate: Who is the agent of change? Says Drummond:

So Microsoft’s hostile bid for Yahoo! raises troubling questions. This is about more than simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It’s about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation.

Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies — and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.

Could the acquisition of Yahoo! allow Microsoft — despite its legacy of serious legal and regulatory offenses — to extend unfair practices from browsers and operating systems to the Internet?

One should never underestimate the power of Microsoft. Nonetheless, I think the internet’s openness is precisely what has kept Microsoft from monopolizing it, as some feared. I’d say that the precedent of AOL taking over and then slowly killing Netscape is relevant here: I’ll bet that Microsoft is just as likely to destroy as to exploit what it gets from Yahoo. That is often the history of these takeovers, when a company tries to buy the strategy it doesn’t have: AOL and Netscape, Time Warner and AOL, Yahoo and, and on and on.

And if I were Google, I’d be a bit careful trying to call someone else too big, since some are trying to paint Google as the new overblown boogeyman. In Europe, newspapers are trying to stop Google’s acquisition of Doubleclick for similar reasons (though Reuters says EU approval is likely). Personally, I don’t think regulation is needed in either deal. But Google does:

In addition, Microsoft plus Yahoo! equals an overwhelming share of instant messaging and web email accounts. And between them, the two companies operate the two most heavily trafficked portals on the Internet. Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors’ email, IM, and web-based services? Policymakers around the world need to ask these questions — and consumers deserve satisfying answers.

This hostile bid was announced on Friday, so there is plenty of time for these questions to be thoroughly addressed. We take Internet openness, choice and innovation seriously. They are the core of our culture. We believe that the interests of Internet users come first — and should come first — as the merits of this proposed acquisition are examined and alternatives explored.

It’s hard to believe that Google is actually scared of Microhoo but is merely using PR and regulation to try to throw some marbles on the ground in front of them. Google does indeed understand the open internet better than either of these young dinos and that is its greatest competitive advantage. In this case, size doesn’t matter. Openness and smarts do.

Microsoft-Yahoo: The deal of the dinos

(Crossposted from Comment is Free, where there are also comments.)

Yahoo, I’ve long argued, is the last old media company, for it operates on the old-media model: It owns or controls content, markets to bring audience in, then bombards us with ads until we leave. Contrast that with Google, which comes to us with its ads and content and tools, all of which I can distribute on my blog. Yahoo, like media before it, is centralized. Google is distributed.

It’s appropriate, then, that Yahoo is being bought by what one could say is the last old technology company, Microsoft. For Microsoft still operates on a model of control: closed in an open era. They will get along well together.

This is not a deal about content. At an entrepreneurial conference in New York this week, OnMedia, a venture capitalist said that the “perceived value of content is approaching zero.” That’s a kick in the kidneys to us content people.

No, this is a deal about audience and advertising. After the big guys consolidated all the ad networks they could — aQuantive to Microsoft, Tacoda to AOL, Doubleclick to Google (the EU willing) — next they’re buying up audience in bulk. That’s what Yahoo is, really. They call it a firehose: people in bulk, us as masses.

The reason this is happening is that advertisers and their agencies are still stupidly treating and buying us as masses — they want everything to operate like the one medium they understand: TV. (This is why, in the U.S., even as television’s audience shrinks, the rates paid for advertising continue to increase — because, oddly, the decrease in audience is creating a market scarcity in commercials’ reach).

This is just as well for Yahoo, which had no strategy, really. They’d gone as far as they could with the old-media model, as exploited by the last CEO, former movie-studio head Terry Semel. Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang started saying the right things about turning Yahoo into a platform, but it probably would have taken years to turn his culture around. They were too used to operating like a movie studio or publishing house.

Will this be big enough to beat Google? No, because big won’t win in the end. Open will.

Why I hate Yahoo, chapter 36

I have complained about Yahoo mail many times. About three years ago, I made the mistake of taking a Yahoo premium account — just to keep Yahoo from killing my account, which is its way of strongarming customers into paying. I canceled the account at least two years ago but just found it on my credit card bill. I spent 20 minutes on the phone with the Philippines trying to cancel the account and get a refund. They refuse to refund. The best part is that I asked for the guy’s name — Joe — and said I was going to blog about this, which I think is only fair. He told me to stop “recording” the call or he would terminate it. They can record. We can’t. Shades of AOL. Their attitude is every bit as bad as Comcast or AOL. Compare and contrast with Google. Yahoo is the last old-style company. It treats its customers like prisoners. They think they can make money telling us what we cannot do. Google has killed them for good reason. I never go to Yahoo. In a word: Yahoo sucks.