The Brutal Decline of Yahoo [INFOGRAPHIC]

It was THE company in its heyday. It was set to take over the world — the destination where people globally went to everyday. There was a time when every Yahoo! past and present bled “purple”. But the company has, over time, made some catastrophic errors in how it managed its NEW acquisitions; in deprioritizing development of community properties; in making the wrong assumption that display media was the ad model here and in the future; and don’t forget in handing over the search market to Google when it clearly had the upper hand.  My hat off to Carol Bartz–the highest paid female in the U.S. at $40 Million–you have your work cut out for you!


The courtship between Microsoft and Yahoo! isn’t going so hot…assume the honeymoon will probably be steamier.

It’s been a volatile courtship of sorts that has lasted many a fortnight — an atypical relationship that competes with most Daytime soaps for drama and suspense, leaving its avid watchers avidly waiting to see what’ll happen next. MSFT –> the dashing knight in shining armour riding in to save the day. Yahoo! –> the damsel, who is playing hard-to-get, resisting the advances of said knight at every turn. The Knight has promised they would rule the world together, staving off the evil, monopolizing King Google, who has extended his powerful fiefdom ten-fold… and now has been reportedly flirting with the gorgeous damsel obviously for more reasons than mere interest.

Now as this saga unfolds, the dashing knight has proposed an arranged marriage with an incredible dowry should the damsel say yes (odd, isn’t the dowry normally offered by the damsel’s family?). Up until now, the damsel resisted all temptations for marriage. As an independent, self-made success story, the damsel didn’t see the need for a rescuer. She did pretty damn well on her own all these years. But as all things, the world has changed. Suddenly, the world that was her oyster decided to turn on her and make way for the younger, more nimble generation. No one told her they would be so smart, learn quickly or move so fast to keep pace…..and even bypass her own or the good Knight’s successes. Suddenly, she was eating their dust and found herself struggling to play catch-up. She tried at every turn to replicate the innovation, drive and passion that resulted in past victories. And, there were many. But now she’s actually reaching middle-age…. a cougar by many respects…. too old to marry but young enough to entertain offers.

So, the damsel and the Knight haven’t spoken over the weekend. His offer has come and gone and she awaits to see whether this play-hard-to-get game will bring her more loot. In the meantime, King Google continues to expand his kingdom, ever wary of the potential claim on his fair maiden. Will he pounce and rescue the damsel? We all know that the two together will “search” the world over. But, alas, fair Knight, you need to up your dowry for the damsel to consider your proposal even noteworthy. Otherwise, take it to her children, and force an uprising from within.

The Power of Community

Social Networking is a phenonmenon that has gained incredible strength and continues to flourish. It has baffled advertisers and businesses as the next generation of marketing is trying to learn how to tap into users in this space.  A significant shift has resulted where marketers realize that traditional advertising on the web is slowly becoming obsolete and appealing to target groups as an advertiser in this space seems to be less effective than attempting to influence the influencers. We’ve always seemingly put trust in the establishment to give us information on certain historical facts, best products, top destinations, hottest jobs and optimal solutions to problems. But the emergence of Web 2.0 has elevated the power of community and hundreds of social networking sites have erupted to validate its authority. The establishment is slowly feeling the impact of this move.

I never really bought into community until a few years back. Ironically, I managed the launch of Yahoo! Answers in Canada, one of the few social search products in this market.  Its premise was to leverage community to provide valuable information based on experience –> something algorithmic search could not provide. Unlike other social search products, Answers does not rely on expert advice from pundits in their fields but the common person, whose life experiences provides the source of answers to many questions.

The turning point for me came when I was attending a Search Summit in the UK, working with other international product and marketing people who were also launching Answers in their respective regions. I received an email from a friend who informed me that my former VP’s daughter had passed away from Leukemia, something she’d been battling for 6 years. She was only 10 years old.  I wanted to immediately reach out to her and give her some comfort for her loss and was reminded of a poem that my Mom had shown me sometime back. I emailed my Mom and asked her about it but, while she remembered the poem, she didn’t know where to find it. I asked the rest of my family if they knew about it. But the response was same. So, I searched for the poem online not really knowing the author or any of the lines — just the context. I did this for some time with no luck. So I gave Yahoo! Answers a go and I sent my question into the unknown abyss of the Answers Community, skeptical of what I would receive.  It took awhile, as I expected it should since I was looking for a needle in a haystack. The response came 9 days later.  And it made me cry.  I didn’t realize that someone out there had the answer. When I looked to established tools and systems for answers to my questions, they didn’t have any. I’m telling you that social networking is here to stay.  The tools out there are making it easier for users to create their own content, build and engage in community.  Businesses have to figure out how to maneuver themselves in this tightly-knit environment if they are to succeed. 


In the beginning…..

Actually, the beginning is today.. April 7, 2008.  My virgin post…. is all about Yahoo!  I’ve been following the headlines intently since I am a former Yahoo! and I still hold shares in the company. It’s so sad to see such an institution relegated to the mercy of its long time rival. Dave and Jerry’s Yahoo! emulated the small start-up with the drive and gumption to succeed, never failing in the ability to think outside of the box and continue to innovate. I remember as a new recruit feeling proud to be part of this cool place.  The orientation sessions made everyone feel like they were part of this really fun place that was always trying new things and allowing their employees to be part of that innovation.  Whether you came from the online world or you were a newbie, you became a part of Yahoo! and soon this FUN and this PASSION became ingrained in you. The free lattes always helped!! The 24/7 mentality was mainstay and every Yahoo! knows that it was common to be online with other Yahoo!s late into the early morning as we conversed across multiple time zones. That was the culture and it was OK because we were part of something neat. And now the rumblings of layoffs, offices closing, consolidation and maintenance do not befit the very place that claimed to be fun and exciting. Hopefully, Yahoo!’s next life doesn’t change the very essence from which it evolved.  That would be a shame.

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