What Yahoo's Reorg Means for Google

By Steve Bryant  |  Posted 2006-12-06 Print this article Print

Yahoo's reorganization is nothing but good news for Google, right?

Wrong. While Google holds a comfortable lead in both search and advertising, the search giant can take some good lessons away from Yahoo's recent troubles.

The first lesson is focus. A few weeks ago, Brad Garlinghouse's peanut butter manifesto threw Yahoo's ADD problem into glaring relief. But Google hasn't exactly benefited from laser-like focus in the last year, either.

In 2006, Google purchased dMarc, Writely, and JotSpot, just to name some high-profile companies. It released quite a few products too, including Google Trends, Google Co-Op, Google Calendar, Google Page Creator, Google Video, Google Pack, Google Notebook and Google Apps for Your Domain.

All this product noise made search guru Danny Sullivan go bonkers over the confusion. After Google purchased Writely, he penned a post called 25 Things I Hate about Google, which reprimanded Google for confusing its customers.

And of course the glut of products led Sergei to champion his "Features not Products" campaign. "It's worse than that," Brin told the LA Times. "It's that I was getting lost in the sheer volume of the products that we were releasing."

Those products are also increasingly landing Google in the courtroom. Google filed a note with the SEC after the YouTube acquisition, hedging its bets by saying litigation could force the company to change parts of it business plan.

The second lesson is customer experience. Though Google touts its focus on improving users' interactions online (Maps and Gmail are amazing), the company is moving into areas of media where its ad model may hurt the audience more than help. For example: Google's AdSense for Audio, according to one radio consultant, will potentially "fill up the station with cheap commercials, decreasing the listening environment for what amounts to a few dollars."

The third lesson: Bureaucracy is bad. Unfortunately, it may also be unavoidable. Google added another 1,000 or so employees this year. Those Googlers are smarter than the average bear, but that may not necessarily be a good thing. "You know what you get when you get too many smart people in one room?" Fortune's Jeffrey O'Brien writes. "You get the corporate equivalent of the U.S. Olympic basketball team."[1]

Don't get me wrong: Google is still doing amazingly well. I think of it kinda like Sherman Williams paint, slowly covering the entire earth. But because of its success, it's also in a tenuous position managing products, managing copyright lawsuits, managing hires and managing an expansive scope of business. Here's hoping the managing part doesn't outweigh the doing. Or the fixing.

[1] All those hires--combined with all those products--creates confusion among Google's marketing teams, too. During a conference call earlier this year, one Reuters reporter, speaking of Google's inability to communicate well with reporters, said to Marissa Mayer, "Why can't you guys get this right? You've been doing this wrong for eight years!"

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