Dear CEO Mayer -- A Wish List from a User
BA is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
I figured why write an article about Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) when I can write directly to its new CEO?
First, congratulations on the new position! Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) loss is surely Yahoo's gain. No, I'm not angling for a cupcake (though I could go for a muffin). But I am hoping you'll take care of a couple things that bother me about Yahoo!.
Show Me the Product!
I know there's been squawking about "a product person running Yahoo."
A "product person" was the smart choice. No offense to marketing people, but they get paid to sell whatever a company churns out, which is more often than not more ^%#$ people don't need or want. Yahoo! doesn't have a really good product (as in one with a very solid moat) at the moment -- and having a marketing type running a company that lacks a really good product is akin to putting the proverbial cart before the horse.
A main reason Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is so successful is because it focuses first on the product, and then on the marketing. I don't believe it's insignificant that Steve Jobs not only knew his bits and bytes, but was heavily focused on User Interface, or User Experience -- your area of expertise.
Show Me the Moat!
I realize Yahoo's bread and butter are display ads (54% of revenue in Q2 2012) and search (46%). However, there is typically no (or little, at best) moat in a business model that generates a bulk of its revenue from advertising. There's perhaps a moderate moat on the search end.
Let's face it, the public is fickle. Swooning over MySpace one day -- all eyes, and clicks, for Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) the next. And you surely know how FB has been doing.
Additionally, communication media is constantly evolving, so one can't bank on its medium being dominant forever. You -- not to mention Zuckerberg and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Balmer -- know all too well there's now at least a partial transitioning to accessing the internet from mobile devices rather than from computers.
Yahoo! Had a Mini Moat -- and it Got Pelted from Within
I use Yahoo! Mail as my personal email. But, Marissa, help! I'm barely hanging on!
Yahoo's email was its "little" moat. Still is, but to a much lesser degree. Most people do not like to change email addresses -- and will hang on until pushed past their tolerance point. Tolerance for what? Tolerance for the what's on Yahoo's Home Page.
I know clicks drive advertising rates, and advertising is largely how Yahoo! pays the bills. However, Yahoo! hasn't been doing the best job walking the fine line between generating as many clicks as possible without losing a good number of the clickers to "cleaner" email pastures (AKA Gmail). Think killing the Golden Goose. Once gone from the Yahoo! ecosystem, those eyeballs and fingertips might as well use Google's various sites and Search, as they're already on Google's site for their email.
The Home Page
I LOVE Google's Home Page -- it's easy-on-the-eyes and clever. That said, I like ("like" in a Facebookish "friend" kind of way) having Yahoo! as my Home Page. It allows me to very quickly take in the major headlines of the day, and -- for better or worse -- get a pulse on what's interesting the general public.
But, Marissa, PLEASE save me from being bombarded by pictures or headlines about Justin Bieber, Snooki, and the like!
I'm not asking you to make the site into The Economist, as I know its mission is to appeal to the widest audience possible. All I ask is for you to save it from becoming The Jersey Shore (TV show) or National Enquirer of internet sites.
Yahoo had a decent brand name, which has been cheapened a bit by its taking the "low road." Hiring you gives it a short-term "classy-ing" and "smarting" up, while you gear up to deliver better quality products and services.
Do an About Face with Facebook
I saw in the 2Q highlights that Yahoo has "new strategic agreements with Alibaba and Facebook and announced several new partnerships including CNBC, Clear Channel and Spotify."
I know you weren't CEO in the second quarter, and Facebook has a boat load of cash, not to mention a gazillion users. But, Marissa, you need to shiny up Yahoo's imagination, and getting further into bed with FB will do the opposite!
FB is already on shaky ground with users (no people don't love FB, they joined because it was the ONLY game in town if they wanted to connect with "friends" -- big difference) and investors. And now I understand this fall they'll be forcing all users to use their Time Line feature. A lot of people don't like that feature. But that's actually not the point -- people react negatively when they feel they're being treated disrespectfully. Remember the fallout from Netflix's pricing change "snafu" last summer?
Yahoo Finance -- Show Me the Dates for "Key Stats"!
Yahoo! Finance is one of the best general finance sites, in my opinion. And, yes, I did see mention of the CNBC alliance in the Q2 highlights -- good move on Yahoo's part.
But please, Marissa, have one of "your people" -- you have 14,100 of them, according to Yahoo! Finance -- list dates for all the key stats!
Let me show you what I mean using Yahoo's own stock as an example. Here's one section of the Key Stats page after the market close on July 31:
|Stock Price History|
|S&P500 52-Week Change3:||10.47%|
3 Data derived from multiple sources or calculated by Yahoo! Finance
OK, so Yahoo's stock returned 25.2% over the 1-year period, but ending WHEN? July 31? July 30? The end of the previous week, so July 27?
Why not add a line stating, "Data calculated based upon stock price on (last trading day of previous week, or whatever)"? One line = significantly improved user experience.
Ok, I'll let you get back to your cupcakes!
BAMcKenna has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.