Thursday, September 8, 2011

Alas, Poor Yahoo. I Knew It Well

Carol-BartzYahoo has fired Carol Bartz as the CEO, and seemingly is spinning out of control.  Speculation has been going all over the board in regards what is either going to, or could, happen to Yahoo as it stands right now.  Some are saying that Yahoo should be bought out by someone like Google.  If anyone were to buy Yahoo, I would wager it would be someone more on the lines of Microsoft making another go, but at a majorly discounted rate.  A personal bit of daydreaming in regards to Yahoo buy outs, how about an AOL-Yahoo merger?  However, my point in this article is more about what Yahoo should do to recover, and stave off any buy outs.

Yahoo has been a name brand of the internet for as long as I can recall.  Back through the mid to late 90’s, you either had an AOL email address, or you had Yahoo.  Same for when it came down to instant messaging clients, even though a lot of people would probably have had both installed.  In todays online ecological environment, most people don’t use instant messaging, they use Facebook’s integrated chat.  That or they simply text everyone.

Two things that Yahoo thrives on (Search used to be THE one, but that is now handled via Bing, so that doesn’t count now) is Email, and IM.  Both produce viable, and constant, ad revenue streams flowing for the company.  However, as I said about Facebook, IM is slowly dying off.  No one finds the relevance of maintaining an IM account when they are on Facebook (and now Google+?) more often than not!  While on the go, there definitely is no need for any real IM connectivity as one could easy text whomever they wish to talk to.  Yahoo is attempting to keep IM yahoo-logorelevant, as is AOL, by ensuring they have apps for all the smartphone platforms.

As for Email, social networking is making email a bit irrelevant, as well.  Email has become nothing more than a means to receive junk mail, and verifications.  With many sites giving you the ability to use your Yahoo, Facebook, Google, OpenID, and other type verification processes, using your email account is almost pointless.  People find it less necessary to email friends and family now as social networks allow them to post pictures and videos to a single location, tag them, inform everyone at the same time, and MORE.  Email still maintains relevance in business environments, but social networking is quickly proving relevance for the work environment as well.

Yahoo has made a few attempts to bill itself as a social experience.Their first attempt was Yahoo 360, but that was to convoluted and buggy.  Then Yahoo switched things to Yahoo Pulse, which also took over the duties for Yahoo Profiles.  However, NO ONE I knew seemed to notice.  They didn’t care either.

How can Yahoo make itself relevant again?

First, it needs to start cutting the fat.  Get rid of all of the services that are either pointless, useless, or redundant.  In the case of redundancy, Yahoo needs to consolidate these services into a single service.  Decide on a name, and go with it.  In the case of dropping services, make sure to get rid of the ones that have declined over the years that indicate a lack of new users.  Importantly, do NOT allow nostalgic ideals get in the way.  Do not keep a service just because it has been under the Yahoo umbrella for years.

Second, Yahoo needs to focus on what it wants to be.  Do you wish to be a social oriented company where user generated content is the most important?  Or, should Yahoo look at making content generated from pre-determined sources to bring users news, weather, and more?  Personally, it seems more that Yahoo is currently focused on the canned content system.  User-generated content is not a focal point in Yahoo’s product at this time.  That is not healthy for users.  Google and Facebook are providing users the ability to have pre-determined content provided, yet gives them the ability to provide content themselves to make the overall experience more robust.

Once the fat has been trimmed, and the focus has been determined, Yahoo needs to look at possibly looking at various other companies and such that it can purchase and add to the Yahoo experience.  Like Google has been doing, this would give Yahoo the ability to bolster Yahoo’s currently existing products, and give it the chance to broaden the capabilities as well, all with out having to spend months coding and developing it themselves.

Lastly, the major key to Yahoo’s success is that they need to do this relatively quickly.  Yahoo can not sit there and take its time.  If they do take their time to do these things, it will NOT matter.  Facebook is the most popular site on the internet when it comes to socializing, communication, sharing and more.  Google just released Google+, and is also the search powerhouse.  Google has services that are similar to, and rival that of, Yahoo’s various services.  In most cases, Google has the superior product.  Same with Facebook over Yahoo’s products.

If Yahoo doesn’t refocus and organize in a timely fashion, it will face the impending buy out from some major company.  A few favorites are Microsoft, Google, and even Facebook.  I don’t see why AOL wouldn’t be interested in Yahoo either.  Yahoo has a strong email presence, and product recognition.  However, with a buy out, the name “Yahoo” could become a distant memory of internet years gone passed.

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