Yahoo and Walking a Tightrope: Ms Mayer as Elvira Madigan

February 13, 2013

Elvira Madigan was a 19th century tightrope walker, immortalized in a film I saw when in graduate school. Is Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer’s the 21st equivalent. Instead of doing a freestyle slacklining, the chief Yahooligan may be attempting to work with both Facebook and Google.

Tricky stuff.

To get the basic idea of the new Yahoo tactics, navigate to “Yahoo CEO Says Microsoft Search Deal Underperforms.” With Yandex gaining momentum and the Google getting its mojo back, Yahoo should be concerned about the Bing search deal. The Thomson Reuters’ report included this useful sequence:

“We need to see monetization working better because we know that it can and we’ve seen other competitors in the space illustrate how well it can work,” Mayer said of the search deal with Microsoft. Yahoo and Microsoft entered into a 10-year search partnership in 2010, hoping their combined efforts could mount a more competitive challenge to Google Inc, the world’s No.1 search engine. But the partnership has not lived up to expectations. Google remains the dominant search engine, with a 66.7 percent share of the U.S. market in December, almost unchanged from its 66.6 percent share two years earlier, according to online analytics firm comScore.

Underperform, therefore, seems to be money, not precision, recall, or whizzy Bing features.

I also noted the Bloomberg story “Yahoo CEO Mayer to Cement Facebook Ties While Pushing Mobile.” The story said:

Enhancing social features is crucial to Yahoo’s success, Mayer said, as she reinforced her preference to partner with companies like Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook rather than build expensive new products. “One of the things that people really want to do is share their interests with their friends,” she said. “We need to have sharing built as a fundamental component.”

Makes sense. Most of what Ms. Mayer does makes sense, including the decision to bail out of the “controlled chaos” of her former employer.

My view is that balancing can be tricky when some of the folks holding the tightrope may let go.

Stephen E Arnold, February 13, 2013

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