Yahoo Exec: It's Not Who's Hot, It's Companies That Last - InformationWeek

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4/18/2007
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Yahoo Exec: It's Not Who's Hot, It's Companies That Last

In the shadow of lackluster financial performance, Yahoo explains how it plans to save its bottom line, along with the environment.

In the wake of Yahoo's lackluster earnings announcement yesterday, executive VP Jeff Weiner took the stage at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco to explain "the disconnect between execution and expectations."

In a question and answer session with John Battelle, co-chair of the Web 2.0 Expo and CEO of Federated Media Publishing, Weiner insisted that Yahoo's new search marketing platform Panama was indeed performing well and that the system would lead to improved advertising revenue later in the year.

"The results for Panama will be more material as the year progresses," Weiner said "And we could not be happier with the results so far."

Weiner responded to the now-all-but-inevitable Google comparison by asserting, "It's not about who's hot now. It's about building companies that last."

If not sufficiently in the black to satisfy Wall Street, Yahoo at least can be green. Yahoo founders Jerry Yang and David Filo yesterday committed their company to carbon neutrality -- balancing corporate carbon dioxide output with greenhouse gas reduction measures -- by the end of the year.

User neutrality is not an option, however. Yahoo wants user enthusiasm. "We want to connect our consumers to what they value the most," Weiner said. "In doing so, we create value for them." In turn, he said, that creates value for advertisers. Weiner said his role as the newly appointed head of Yahoo's network division "is to facilitate the connection of the dots," the dots being Yahoo's disparate online services. Finding ways to interconnect them more effectively, in theory at least, will create more value for Yahoo. It's a challenge Weiner tackled at Yahoo back when he oversaw the connection of several different search engines Yahoo had acquired.

Connecting people and machines is fundamental to all Internet companies, but it's comparatively more significant at Yahoo than at Google. That's because Yahoo has grown more through major acquisitions that Google has, at least in the past. Thus, Yahoo has had to work harder on integrating acquired systems than Google, where development has tended to be internal.

That technical approach parallels Yahoo's corporate approach, which skews more toward alliances and partnerships. In the past few years, Google has pursued a similar path, having encountered resistance from content owners. But Weiner nonetheless considers Yahoo's attitude distinct from Google's. "It begins with placing value on the rights of intellectual property holders," he explained, making it clear that Yahoo doesn't share the contempt for copyrights that media companies see, rightly or wrongly, in Google.

Yahoo's habit of working with partners rather than going it alone seems to have left some wistfulness about the distance that has come between Microsoft and Yahoo since Microsoft committed itself to the search advertising business.

Though Weiner denied that Yahoo and Microsoft would merge, he expressed regret that the two companies were no longer as close as they had been. "I would love to have seen that partnership stay intact as long as possible," he said. "The idea of splintering a very strong partnership and going after a very strong competitor [like Google] is a very interesting decision."

Earlier, when Battelle kicked off this particular line of questioning with a single word, "Microsoft," some in the auditorium dismissed the once-fearsome software giant with a laugh, as if to say Google had already won.

"You're laughing already?" Weiner said in defense of the former ally. "He didn't say anything?" He later added, "You never, ever count Microsoft out."

Weiner might as well have said the same thing about Yahoo.

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