What Matters Most? Not Yahoo

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-08-27 Print this article Print

"The agreement calls for Microsoft to supply us with algorithmic search results, images and video," Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president of Yahoo's Labs and Search Strategy, said during the press conference. "We will be free to innovate on top of that layer."

TechCrunch's MG Siegler, who wrote in May that Yahoo Search as we know it is over (before the Microsoft deal!), summarized the tenor of the Q&A session in this blog post when he wrote that Raghavan tried to answer the questions as best he could:

"But the vibe seemed to be that he felt confined in giving the answers that Yahoo is making all of its execs give. And even though at least half of the questions during the Q&A session were about Yahoo's deal with Microsoft, it was clear that plenty of the journalists and bloggers in the audience still weren't entirely clear what the plan is. Or that Yahoo really knows what the plan is."

What is clear is that Yahoo confused the media at this event just as it did financial analysts when it announced the deal with Microsoft. If the Web-savvy media can't look past how Bing will work with Yahoo to accept the upgrades to its core Search, Mail and Messenger services, then Yahoo has failed. The Web 2.0 media helps drive the adoption in Web 2.0 tools. Just ask Google, Facebook and Twitter what the media has done for them.

If the media doesn't grok what Yahoo is trying to do and then agree that these improvements are important enough to make them start using Yahoo, or start using Yahoo services they previously had not used, how can Yahoo realistically expect consumers to adopt them?  

After reading TechCrunch's coverage of Yahoo's What Matters Most event, I can't help but conclude the estimable blog believes Yahoo has, as they say, jumped the shark. Siegler wasn't alone in condemning Yahoo. TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld opened a post about Yahoo's status updates with" "When you are late to the game, trying to rename it doesn't win you any points." In a subsequent post about Yahoo's bid to enable video play in search results, Schonfeld wrote: "Now Yahoo is finally getting with the program. Today it added inline viewing to video search."

This ill-concealed contempt is dooming Yahoo, quote by quote, because it compels and reinforces users to believe Yahoo is finished as an innovator. If Yahoo can't sell itself to the media, how can it sell itself to the consumers who don't know any better?

I did not attend the event, though I participated via phone and saw the demos via a Web conference from my laptop. I thought the demos were well done and showed promise for Yahoo. I think Search Pad is a fine Web annotation tool and was pleased to see it moved to a more prominent position on top of the left-hand rail. Yahoo needs these tools to keep users from fleeing for other Web services.

Whether or not other providers had these tools first would not be so important if not for the fact that media likes to make a big deal about first-mover status. Yet quality counts for something. Having a product that keeps users engaged today is better than the product that kept users engaged yesterday.


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