Yahoo!: The Final (Star) Trek?

Jun.30.08 | About: Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO)

Yahoo's (NASDAQ:YHOO) announced reorg prompted more "huhs?" than "huzzahs" last week. For instance:

  • "The statements from both Sue Decker and Jerry Yang sound sort of like B-school jargon with the soothing tone of a dentist’s assistant, none of it really acknowledging that anything is wrong at the company." (Joseph Weisenthal, PaidContent)
  • "Let me keep it short and sweet: Decker is a charmless Wall Street type who's bad at managing people. Patel's main skill, one that has kept him at place in Yahoo for 12 years, is managing up. His second talent: making excuses for the fact that he's rarely seen on campus before 10:30." (ValleyWag)
  • "They replaced one highly ineffective model with another highly ineffective model," said Jeffrey Lindsay, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "It's not clear from this what it's intended to achieve. It seems to be a greater centralization of power and structure that's been tried many times by other companies in the Internet space, particularly AOL, and it never works very well."

One big impact of the re-org: the further ascendancy of Hilary Schneider, to head the new "U.S. go-to-market group," a move that I noted last week would signal continued substantial resources for the newspaper consortium.

Schneider will have Scott Moore's Yahoo Media group reporting to her. That raised some eyebrows among the legion of Yahoo watchers, which Hilary dismissed in a PaidContent interview, suggesting that she and Moore will be of single mind, literally: “It’s a Vulcan Mind-Meld.” More spooky than Spockian, but it suggests the real new Yahoo strategy, hinting at how the new (really!) Yahoo can embrace Trekkie mojo to find a path to independent survival. For instance:

  • Hearing Wall Street's increasing skepticism about Jerry Yang's rosy projections in the out-years, Yahoo replaces revenues, uniques, RPMs and time spent on site, with a new metric: warps!
  • There may be some truth to the rumor that Yahoo countered Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) offer of Sergei Brin-sponsored space travel with free rides in the teleporter. Media News Dean Singleton was seen with a broad smile on his face as he mouthed, "Beam Me Up!"
  • Clearly, no one at Yahoo has yet mastered "Star Trek: The Next Generation - A Final Unity," the Spectrum Holybyte game. We know that because the big announced re-org left a major job un-assigned, the head of a new Insights Strategy team, just the team charged with the meager task of unifying strategy and understanding across Yahoo's too-many platforms.
  • Over the weekend, Photoshopped pix of Carl Icahn as The Borg began appearing in Yahoo break rooms.
  • New Yahoo talking point: We're not capitulating to Google; we're just joining The Federation!
  • Responding to the exodus of those execs departed or re-orged, Yahoo announces the use of its new Exec Replication technology, acquired in the semi-secret Pink Lithium buy. "We don't have to pay benefits or spend lots of money on training them on the Yahoo way. We just make more of people like us!"
  • Last resort: Borrowing William Shatner from Priceline, a company with an unambiguous business model, to revive the Yahoo! Yahoo!!