As reported on TMCnet yesterday, Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo has stepped down from the board to pursue other interests. We have a great deal to thank Yang for – as the first company to categorize the web and build out many free services, society has benefit greatly from what Yahoo has more or less given away for free. That is the positive – the negative is the company has eroded top management and investor confidence for many years. Not to mention the botched Microsoft acquisition some years back at a valuation more than double what the company is worth now. To summarize the challenges at Yahoo, its a giant sloth competing against gazelles like Google and Facebook.
The massive amount of innovation and competitive instincts shown by Google’s founders as well as Mark Zuckerberg is a start contrast to Yang who never struck me as a competitive businessperson. Now that he is gone altogether and new CEO Scott Thompson is at the helm, here are some of the areas of focus the company should be dealing with in no particular order.
Yahoo has tremendous depth – a dizzying array of services, apps and products – in many cases, the press and people outside Yahoo working on the projects aren’t aware of them. The first step in turning around a company is improving communications and making your services more sticky. Obviously this can only be accomplished if users know all there is to explore and benefit from.
Yahoo has increased its ties with Facebook – in fact I would say it has done a great job in this regard – but the company needs to reach out to the Twitter community as well – and how about Instagram – this up and coming mobile, social photo-sharing network would be a strong asset in a world where there is value associated with owning the social network.
Continuing on the social theme and merging it with mobile is Yahoo’s IntoNow app which allows an iPhone or iPad to become an interactive, social TV terminal. You can login with Facebook and the program will listen to your TV, decipher what channel and program you are watching and share the information with your friends. From there you can communicate with your friends about the program.
This is an awesome app which needs to be promoted more widely. Moreover, Yahoo has to do more leading-edge work like this. Then it may be up to the press to start covering it more.
Google and Amazon are generating real revenue from the cloud and there is an opportunity for SMB and enterprise dollars if the company can find new and creative ways to leverage its data center. There are many small businesses for example that use Yahoo Mail… What about new hosted apps to extend mail into CRM, accounting and other areas? This can be done with partners if need be.
According to Alexa, music.yahoo.com gets 1.42% of the site’s traffic which isn’t bad – but what about a mobile app for music like Pandora? Does it make sense to pick up this company, Spotify or Slacke? How about a closer working relationship? Seems there is lots of opportunity here for growth.
This is a tougher one – the company’s movie site gets 2.3% of its total traffic – it could be better perhaps with more custom content. To that end the company announced they joined forces with Playtone and Reliance Entertainment to bring Tom Hanks' multi-dimensional animated series "Electric City" to Yahoo! in 2012.
This could be a big break for the company and with YouTube launching original content channels by the dozen this move must be done to remain somewhat competitive.
Apple, Google and Twitter are cool – Yahoo to me seems very corporate. The company has to loosen up its culture and its way of doing business. One of its biggest challenges is the hipsters and even younger generations aren’t using email which means Yahoo has to find new ways of remaining relevant with this crowd. If the image of the company isn’t right to begin with, any new services will have a lower take-up rate.
Google comes out with so many new services so quickly it makes the head spin. Yahoo is much slower in this area and needs to speed up. They need to take a group of top engineers and set them free to discover the next big thing(s).
I’ve mentioned a few partnership opportunities above but there needs to be many more. Partnering is an inexpensive way to grow your business while helping another company grow theirs.
Why isn’t Yahoo the best at returning ROI for advertisers? It should be as it has just so much information about its users. Years back I wrote about how Google’s purchase of DoubleClick would put the search leader in a better position in terms of analytics but I never imagined Yahoo wouldn’t be a powerhouse in this area. The company needs to improve and quickly.
Yahoo needs election tie-ins and as many as possible to stay relevant. By this I mean it needs to be involved in building the community of questions and answers for many of the televised debates. YouTube is doing this as is parent company Google. Likewise for Twitter and others – Yahoo has to do better.
These are just some things Yahoo can do to improve its performance and perhaps more importantly relevance. In Internet time, Yahoo at over 15 is a dinosaur. The question is with Yang’s departure and a new CEO can the company reinvent itself as an embryo or will it be bogged down in-part due to a stodgy corporate culture which took years to build and may take even longer to dismantle.