Yahoo, Dead Man Walking

I had a meeting at Yahoo on Friday afternoon. It was like the other 1,835 meetings I’ve had there over the years, it also won’t produce anything meaningful.

What struck me about the meeting was how little energy there is on that campus, it’s a dreadful place to be, even if just briefly. The other folks in the meeting just went through the motions. I saw the look in their eyes and knew what it meant, that “even though this may be a good idea, it ain’t gonna happen for reasons we have no control over.” In retrospect, I wish they just came out and said that from the get-go, we could have saved everyone’s time.

One guy replayed the talking points of the day, that the last couple of months have really brought the people together yada yada yada. I was almost waiting for him to refer to a “the experience of being in a forge” or some other metaphor meant to convey a toughening in the face of challenging times. I just kept thinking that as a Yahoo shareholder I wish they got off their asses 2 years ago and figured out how to work together better.

I actually sat there kind of speechless as I repressed every fiber of my being to not say something when he went on to suggest that the executives and Board were doing a great job at building more value through their negotiating tactics… I should have said something, it would have cut the meeting short.

The advice was given to me that we should develop on some of the Yahoo technologies to build goodwill because “that gets people here interested”. That’s all well and good but I’m not inclined to invest my scarce development resources on a development exercise who’s sole purpose is to prove I’m serious. The days when I’ll trek down to Yahoo HQ and prostrate myself on the steps and wait with breathless anticipation for a hand to reach down to annoint me the chosen one are over… even Google doesn’t make me do that.

Lot’s of bus dev people like to suggest that you should develop with their technologies to get things going and it’s always bullshit. It’s an excuse they use to mask their ineffectiveness at the hands of a silo’ed and bureaucratic organization. Yahoo is about as silo’ed as they come.

Yahoo! Open Strategy was referenced a couple of times, or rather “YOS” in Yahoo geek speak. It’s pretty evident to me that this initiative is going to have Yahoo out in the weeds for the next 3-6 months, providing yet another reason for me to not invest more time trying to do something with them. Basically the company has pinned their entire future on something that is yet another technology exercise and a promise to rewrite Yahoo, none of which will solve the basic targeting and measurement problem that Yahoo has been struggling with for years. I thought Panama was going to fix that… but now it looks evident that Yahoo will give up on that and outsource search advertising to Google… awesome Jerry.

Yahoo says it wants developers to build to their platform, my experience suggests that their desires simply are not matched with incentives and initiative that is required of them to do it. Given the way these businesses inside Yahoo are run, I’d be surprised if they can get all of Yahoo on the same playbook in 6 months.

There’s still a chance that the Microsoft acquisition could get done, the investors (me included) are ready to feed Yang and Filo to the wolves and the fact that the stock dropped to a level that is still well above the price when the deal was first announced, well that suggest the Street is hedging on the possibility that this could still happen. I think Ballmer is done, that he sees the dysfunction that is this company and realizes he was about to bite off more than he could chew.

12 thoughts on Yahoo, Dead Man Walking

  1. Jeff: Been some time since I've been on your blog. The total fragmentation of content and the schizophrenia of centralization back to fragmentation has taken hold as well. You know what I mean. Anyway, great post. Very interesting to hear. What is truly amazing is how quickly the organizational dynamics of companies move basically as the speed of today's firms acceleration and growth. You see people commenting that they are leaving their (once agile companies) to pursue opportunities elsewhere. These companies are 10+ years old on the outer edge, most are less. And they seem to be suffering from employee dynamics of "traditional" companies that are much much older. Quite amazing if you think about it.

  2. I totally forgot about Panama, I think it happened a second after it was bought by Yahoo. How much did they over pay for that? Mark Cuban is still running around with the money Yahoo paid him, but does anyone remember what the company was? I can't. Will anyone remember Yahoo a few years from now?

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  4. <blockquote>Yahoo says it wants developers to build to their platform, my experience suggests that their desires simply are not matched with incentives and initiative that is required of them to do it.</blockquote> This entire post is true. And this statement just about sums it up.

  5. When people are used to being treated like a king in their jobs as you are, they can become cold and bored and take for granted all of the things a company does to help you thrive. Coming from a call center environment where I was treated like a meat puppet, I would like to share my perspective: Working at Yahoo! has been the most fulfilling work experience of my life. No one ever had a harsh word for me and everyone supported everyone daily. I always got the feeling that we were building something together rather than competing for money. To me, Yahoo! is like a big family where people come and go but always keep in touch and always care for each other. I've never seen so many honest smiles in one place. There's no word for the feeling you get when you feel you can trust everyone you work with because it usually doesn't happen.

  6. Maybe that meeting was like that because YOU were there? I'd not be surprised of the outcome considering your attitude: "I wish", "I shoud", etc. and then just sat there, did nothing, and then blogged about it? Why didn't you just open your mouth and ask? It is surprising how many just pick on others without seeing their own shortcomings. That to me is indeed same old thing. Wish you the best!

  7. You could have spoken to them and expressed your concern, but instead your were quiet, then went home and blogged about it. What's that say?

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