November 18, 2015
I read “Yahoo a New Target in NY Daily Fantasy Sports Probe: Source.” The main idea is that Yahoo rolled out a fantasy sports service. Yahoo needed revenues and someone at Yahoo thought this me too play was a no brainer.
In the write up, I learned:
A probe by New York State’s attorney general into the fast-growing, multibillion-dollar daily fantasy sports industry has been expanded to include online media giant Yahoo Inc, a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. The move coincides with a court filing by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday seeking a temporary injunction that would shut down DraftKings and FanDuel, leaders among online companies offering paid-for daily fantasy sports contests.
Poor Yahoo. At least the issue generated an easy rhyme: Yahoo, you, too. More woes for the Xoogler’s outfit. Quite a gamble.
Stephen E Arnold, November 18, 2015
November 16, 2015
On a trip to Italy, I learned about Caligula’s ships for Lake Nemi. Somehow, despite a crackerjack education at a college in a corn field, I did not know that Benito Mussolini drained the lake and began work to recover the ships. As luck would have it, the fine leader pulled off the salvage operation. One of the interesting discoveries was that Caligula’s architect covered the hull with lead. The idea was that water annoyances would not consume the wood. Not necessary. The lake was did not have shipworms. What happened to the ships? In the World War II spat, the ships burned. Poof. The Nemi ships can be a management inspiration: Grandiose, expensive, useless.
I think about the Roman emperor’s ships when I learn about the antics of Google management meet ups like the one reported in “Google’s Elite Camp Conference Returns to Sicily.” The idea seems to be that an off site training event is conducive to Googley innovation, learning, and management. With training sometimes deductible, depending on the country in which the tax authority resides, these Nemi-esque meets up can also deliver some down time.
I read “Marissa Mayer’s Convoluted Yahoo Strategy: There’s No Place Like Home” this morning (November 16, 2015). The article reports:
Last fall, in one of the stranger and more expensive efforts to boost company morale, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer decided that all her executive staff needed to play dress-up. In an elaborate photo shoot that took place at an offsite at the Cavallo Point Lodge in Marin County, north of San Francisco, she cast all the top staffers as characters from “The Wizard of Oz” and made them pose for a poster in full costume, since it was to be the theme of the upcoming employee holiday party.
When comparing this Wizard of Oz approach, the make believe of over the rainbow struck me as almost prudent. No Italy. No Nemi-style meet up in Sicily.
The write up adds:
One thing is clear: Yahoo’s not in Kansas anymore.
My thought is that fancy parties like those for which the Nemi boats were ideal, meet ups crafted with Google DNA, and play acting are Silicon Valley at its most decisive. As Dorothy said:
“If we walk far enough we shall sometime come to someplace.”
Hopefully that place includes revenue with a side order of healthy profits. Xooglers may think like Google, but Xooglers have to deliver the goods for stakeholders. Should Yahoo be a media company, a search company, or something else entirely. Right now Yahoo may have jumbled the costumes for its Oz thing.
Stephen E Arnold, November 16, 2015
November 10, 2015
Years ago, when Google was a foundling, the myth of the brilliance of the Googler was fresh, new. Xooglers have had a good run. Work at the 24×7, wild and wonderful outfit for a few years. Then cash in and become an investment banker, an entrepreneur, or a senior manager.
Yahoo did the Xoogler thing. There was chatter years ago that the Yahoo was going to be a big deal in the exciting Internet world with mobile, smart software, semantics, apps, and original content.
How is that working out?
I read “Yahoo Hires McKinsey to Mull Reorg, as Mayer Demands Exec Pledge to Stay” to find out. Interesting analysis from a person in a good position to observe and gather information. Among the tidbits I jotted down were:
- The new swing for the fences initiative is Project Index. Index? That’s an exciting concept.
- Yahoo does not want to lose key staff. Who does?
- The top Xoogler hired the bluest of the blue chip consulting firms to help put some revenues on the books.
Okay, another big plan. Just like those at Google except and this is a classic “but for” construction—ad revenue. Google has it. Yahoo has less. A home run is unlikely to win the game in which Yahoo finds itself.
Losing staff? The fix is not to lock a professional down in my opinion. Working with a company is a choice. When folks decide not to work with an outfit, no contract will fix the free agent mentality of certain folks. The effort may cause people to bail out.
And the McKinsey thing? Blue chip consulting is a darned exciting type of work. Who is the client? The Xoogler? The Board of Directors? The stakeholders? Consider the answer, gentle reader. Blue chip consulting firms may not have all the answers, but the blue chip firms know how to set their agenda and then follow up.
What will McKinsey do? Preserve McKinsey. Yahoo may be in for some surprises because not even the smartest Xooglers in the world see opportunity quite the same way blue chip consulting firms do.
McKinsey did not hire Yahoo. Yahoo allegedly hired McKinsey. Who has the power now?
Stephen E Arnold, November 10, 2015
October 1, 2015
Quote to note: You may have to pay to read “Yahoo’s Got Spin, Not Substance.” The article appears in my dead tree copy of the Wall Street Journal on September 30, 2015, on page c-16 which features a touch of money green ink. The write up is basic: The IRS has not yet granted Yahoo a no tax pass on its sale of its stake in Alibaba. What caught my attention was this quote to note:
Once Alibaba is out of the picture, Yahoo investors have little to look forward to.
Yikes. Does this mean that Yahoo’s semantic search strategy is not working?
Stephen E Arnold, October 1, 2015
September 24, 2015
Kill dear old Yahoo? IBTimes reports on some harsh words from an ivory-tower type in, “NYU Professor: Yahoo Ought to Be ‘Euthanised’ and Marissa Mayer’s Pregnancy Saved her Job.” It seems marketing professor Scott Galloway recently criticized the company, and its famous CEO, in a televised Bloomberg interview. In his opinion, any website with Yahoo’s traffic should be rolling in dough, and the company’s struggles are the result of mismanagement. As for his claim that the “most overpaid CEO in history” only retains her position due to her pregnancy? Reporter Mary-Ann Russon writes:
“Galloway says that Yahoo would not be willing to face the public backlash that would come from firing a woman in such a position of power who has just announced she is pregnant.
“This is not a stretch since there are still far fewer women in leadership positions than men – as of March 2015, only 24 of the CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are women – and the issue with how companies perceive family planning remains a sore point for many career-minded women (Read: Gamechangers: Why multimillionaire ‘mom’ Marissa Mayer is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t).
“However, Galloway also pointed the finger of blame for Yahoo’s woes at its board, which he said has been a ‘lesson in poor corporate governance,’ since there have been five CEOs in the last seven years.”
Though Yahoo was a great success around the turn of the millennium, it has fallen behind as users migrate their internet usage to mobile devices (with that format’s smaller, cheaper ads). Though many still use its free apps, nowadays most of Yahoo’s revenue comes from its Alibaba investment.
So what does Galloway recommend? “It should be sold to Microsoft,” he declared. “We should put a bullet in this story called ‘Yahoo’.” Ouch. Can Yahoo reverse their fortunes, or is it too late for the veteran Internet company?
Cynthia Murrell, September 24, 2015
September 14, 2015
In 2006, I learned that a Yahooligan wrote what is findable in Google as the “peanut butter manifesto.” The alleged author of the peanut butter analysis left Purpleville but thoughtfully updated his write up in 2013. The points which stick to the roof of my mind were: [a] Yahoo was doing too much with too few resources and [b] Yahooligans leaked information outside of Purpleville. Interesting to some, but the Yahoo is not germane to what I do unless the company makes wild and crazy assertions about its excellence in search, its semantic research, and the other topics I keep in the room with my favorite hobby horse.
I read “Straight Outta Sunnyvale: Yahoo Manager Gone after Racially Charged E-Mail.” It seems that another Yahooligan wrote an internal document and revealed truths about the Purple monster. I am one of those individuals who is easily confused. I assumed that the hipsters at Yahoo were in step with the trends.
I noted this passage in the “Straight Outta Sunnyvale” article:
Meghna Virick, a professor of management at San Jose State University, said Mr. Shen’s [former Yahooligan and alleged Straight Outta memo author] prompt departure from Yahoo was “harsh” and a missed opportunity to have a broader discussion at the company about what is permissible. “Yes, it’s embarrassing, and yes, it’s humiliating, but it’s sometimes good to let this stuff surface,” Prof. Virick said. “It’s important to have discussions about it, to treat this as an opportunity to talk about it with the rest of the Yahoo community. Because if [Mr. Shen] felt comfortable documenting it by e-mail, there’s a likelihood that there could be a culture of disrespect.”
Yahoo may not be able to generate robust organic growth, but its staff can crank out the internal documents which contribute to my appreciation of the Sillycon Valley business environment. I also like the meme power of their memos. Peanut butter and straight outta Sunnyvale. Very clever writing in my view.
Asterisks can be powerful. Ah, dear, old Yahoo. “So don’t be a punk.” I am not sure what that means but the phrase speaks to some at Yahoo. I wonder if the injunction will improve the company’s information access technologies. Dog food?
Stephen E Arnold, September 14, 2015
August 19, 2015
While Web site search used to be considered the worst before Google released a high-performing search widget, the title now officially goes to email search. Nobody wants to search through their email to find a missing email and you are doomed if you even think about using a mail application such as Outlook or Apple Mail. In part of its rebranding effort, Yahoo is taking measures to fix email search, says the New York Times in “Yahoo Tweaks Email To Make Search More Personal.”
Yahoo has been working for a year to improve email search and now Yahoo mail has implemented the changes. It now offers auto complete and suggestions when a search term is typed into the query box. It will also index attachments and links included in emails, so users do not have to find the actual email they were in. The sorting options have also been updated and social media accounts can now be synced.
The changes are small and the auto complete/suggestions usually revert to basic keyword suggestions, but it is a step in the right direction. Yahoo does not want to overhaul the mail system too quickly, because, as anyone knows, too many changes at once are upsetting to users.
“Instead, Yahoo is subtly making changes. Last month, for example, it added a small plus button to the bottom right of the window used to compose emails. If you click on that button, you can drag and drop photos and documents from your email archive, pull in an animated GIF from Yahoo’s Tumblr social network, or add the results of a web search.”
Yahoo made a good business choice and is working to improve its email and other applications. It will be interesting to watch the changes unfold.
August 16, 2015
I love it when Yahoo explains the future of search. The Xoogler has done the revisionism thing and shifted from Yahoo as a directory built by silly humanoids to a leader in search. Please, do not remember that Yahoo bought Inktomi in 2002 and then rolled out a wild and crazy search system in cahoots with IBM in 2006. (By the way, that search solution brought my IBM multi cpu, DASD equipped, RAM stuffed server to its knees. At least, the “free” software installed.)
Now to business: I read “The Future of Search Relies on Semantic Technologies.” For me, semantic technologies have been part of search for many years. But never mind reality. Let’s get to the Reddi-wip in the Yahoo confection.
Search companies are thus investing in information extraction and data fusion, as well as more and more advanced question-answering capabilities on top of the collected information. The need for these technologies is only increasing with mobile search, where providing results as ten blue links leads to a very poor user experience.
I would point out that as lousy as blue links are, these links produce about $60 billion a year for the Alphabet Google thing and enough zeros for the Microsoft wizards to hang on to its online advertising business even as it loses enthusiasm for other aspects of the Bing thing.
We are a consumer internet company, so for us there is little difference between our internal and external representations.
My comment is a simple question, “What the heck is Yahoo saying?”
I also highlighted this semantic gem:
At Yahoo Labs, we work in advancing the sciences that underlie these approaches, i.e. Natural Language Processing, Information Retrieval and the Semantic Web.
I like the notion of Yahoo advancing science. I wonder if these advances will lead to advances in top line revenue, stabilizing management, and producing search results that are sort of related to the query.
July 29, 2015
Bing is the joke of Internet search. Skilled Web surfers…no, scratch that term. Nobody “surfs” the Internet anymore, unless you are an older person trying to maintain relevancy. Skilled Web users Google or play DuckDuckGo, but according to Mashable, Bing might be ringing in as many jokes anymore, “Microsoft’s Bing Isn’t Such A Failure After All.”
Microsoft VP of advertiser and publisher Rik van der Kooi said that Bing is now able to pay for itself, contrary to its launch six years ago when it hemorrhaged cash from the beginning. Microsoft wants Bing to be even more profitable by its 2016 fiscal year, which started earlier this month on July 1.
“Microsoft should provide more clarity on Bing’s financials with its next earnings release in July. Profitable or not, Bing is clearly moving in the right direction. The service’s improved financial position, combined with recent strides in pushing its share of the search market to 20%, offer the clearest argument yet that Microsoft still has the power to muscle its way into lucrative and mature technology categories and find solid footing there.”
The article recounts Bing’s unprofitable history, culminating in its more recent successes that have funneled more green into the search engine. This includes Apple making Bing the default search on its mobile OS, a renewed partnership with Yahoo, a ten year deal with AOL, and Bing sending map imaging to Uber. It finishes by calling Bing a contender and it looks like that may be true. Let’s wait until they start making self-driving cars until victory is declared.
July 24, 2015
I have only a hazy recollection of a conversation with Dave Filo, one of the founders of Yahoo. That was a long time ago. Chris Kitze and I had started The Point, which was a curated list of G-rated Web sites. The telephone call was to discuss what we were doing and what Yahoo was doing. We were doing essentially the same thing, which was okay. We aimed at doing the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval thing with our Top 5% of the Internet. The Yahooligans were creating a general directory of Internet sites. Our approaches were complementary. We sold to Lycos (CMGI) and Yahoo did its Yahoo thing until today.
I thought about the manually assembled Web directory and the look at the listings approach of Yahoo. We had a lousy search engine along with categories for the Point. I never thought of Yahoo as being a Web search engine. That came later when Yahoo experimented, licensed, bought Inktomi, and ended up with a deal to get a Web search thing from Microsoft.
Imagine how the headline “Yahoo Wants to Return to Its Roots as a Search Engine” created some associative dissonance for me. Yahoo was a list. A manually constructed list of links. Yahoo was a directory first. Search came later and, in my opinion, never arrived. The write up states:
Yahoo wants to be a search giant once more.
Even the azure chip consultants are struggling with this Xoogler vision. I highlighted this gem from the ground level of consulting insight:
However, Gartner analyst Mike McGuire tells Quartz he thinks Yahoo’s renewed focus on search is “a bit quixotic,” questioning its ability to execute and capture market share.
Okay. Yahoo is a weird 1990s thing which is, I suppose, the last portal standing. Search is a bridge too far for many companies. Maybe that’s why there are just a couple of Web search engines that get the bulk of the traffic and an information highway with some smaller outfits which the high speed drivers zoom right by. When was the last time you stopped at Qwant.com or Unbubble.eu?
I understand the enthusiasm for writing something, anything, that seems new and fresh. But Yahoo does not have roots in search. Consequently it, like many other companies, has disappointed with its approach to information access. Nevertheless, the article goes its merry way just like Yahoo. Sympathetic harmonics at work.
Stephen E Arnold, July 24, 2015