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January 22, 2008

What To Do About Yahoo

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Oh poor little Yahoo. This week there’s been nothing but rumors of massive layoffs, pitiful looking stock prices, and depressing marketing share forecasts. You’re all over the blogosphere and for all the wrong reasons. It’s turned into a tragic car wreck that people can’t help but slow down to watch. What in the world are we going to do with you?

Over at GigaOm, guest author Sramana Mitra is crying Yahoo, Please Put Up A Fight and near begging them to take advantage of the Web 3.0 jewel they’re already sitting on. That jewel being the popularly held belief that the new wave of the Web and search will be expanding and capitalizing off verticals, an area that Yahoo pretty much excels in. I find myself in total agreement with Sramana on this one. Yahoo either has to start fighting or get the hell out of the way. Do or do not, there is no try.

I think part of Yahoo’s problem is Jerry Wang. He has this fairytale notion that someday Yahoo will be "the most essential starting point for your life". That’s a fine little mantra to hum to yourself before you fall asleep at night, but in the real world a CEO needs to set goals that a company can actually achieve. Telling your 5-year-old that someday he has to grown up to play professional baseball isn’t going to help him get there. First he needs to be able to hit a ball without whacking the tee. Yahoo needs some guidance. They need to find a niche and focus on filling it.

We keep hearing about these upcoming layoffs and how they’ll help to "refocus" and "restructure" Yahoo’s vision. That’s a bunch of crap. You know it’s going to be the wrong people getting the pink slips. You can’t change Yahoo’s brand DNA with Jerry Yang still in power. If Yahoo wants to grow and become competitive again, it’s time to put the people brave enough to effect change in charge. Something tells me the layoffs they’re planning aren’t going to affect the old-timers stuck in their ways with the big paychecks; they’re going to cut out the lower echelon. That’s not what Yahoo needs.

Someone needs to give Jerry Yang a good shake. Let’s drop these fairytales notions of where we want our company to be and focus on reestablishing the Yahoo brand. Yahoo has the vertical elements already in place to make strides and steal market share. They just need to strengthen them. Seriously, head over to the Yahoo home page and their underused properties are all listed there for you. There’s Delicious, Yahoo Autos, Flickr, Yahoo Answers, Hot Jobs, Yahoo Sports and about a million others. Everywhere Google is trying to get, Yahoo is already there. Why aren’t they being more aggressive about doing something with them? Okay, we’re starting to integrate Delicious results into the SERPS, but is that the best we can do?

Yahoo, stop trying to be Google and start using what you’ve already got. Be the place to go for vertical searches. Google’s left a huge hole; it’s their Achilles heel. Get your bows out and clip them there.

And this is an issue that is no way specific to Yahoo. The engine to become "the next Google" will be the one that stops trying to be Google. No one is going to take horizontal search from them at this point. Stop marketing to everyone. Establish your niche, overtake it, and then build out. I’d give the same advice to Ask.com.

Honestly, I don’t really care if Yahoo ever succeeds. I want someone to rise up from the ashes and become competitive, but if it’s not Yahoo, I’m pretty okay with that. I’d much rather see Ask mobilize their forces to steal the verticals away from Google and gain market share; however, I realize I can’t be picky. I don’t care who decides to get their asses in motion first, as long as someone finally does it.

I find it completely puzzling that neither Yahoo nor Ask, two companies with very strong specialized properties, have come out with their guns blazing in vertical search. There seems to be this held belief that Google is already there and rocking it, but they’re not! Google’s verticals are poorly developed and completely inferior to what Yahoo and Ask already having going. That space is still entirely open. Someone needs to get on the ball and do something with it. Either that or just fade away. If you’re not going to do something, I don’t want to hear about you.

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One response to “What To Do About Yahoo”

  1. Burgo writes:

    “First he needs to be able to hit a ball without whacking the tee.”

    Change the “he” for “she”, and I suspect there are some deep scars there, huh Lisa? :P



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