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Ken Doctor
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Ken Doctor’s work centers on the transformation of consumer media in the digital age. He is the author of “Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get,” which has been translated into Mandarin Chinese, Korean and Portuguese. He contributes to his own website... More
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  • Why We Have a Hard Time Thinking of Yahoo as a News Company 0 comments
    Mar 4, 2010 2:27 AM | about stocks: YHOO, GOOG, CMCSA
    Carol Bartz runs one of the top three news sites on the web….and doesn’t, well, like the news.

    In a rambunctious interview with CNBC on Tuesday, Bartz celebrated Yahoo’s 15th anniversary and found herself asked a lot of tough questions by CNBC’s Lunch Break team. Through that questioning — which got the most press for her statement that she would have sold Yahoo to Microsoft had she been CEO at the time — she hardly seemed like the proud captain of a news enterprise. You know, the news, it’s just so negative, so ungainly, just too darn hard to understand.

    On how to get the economy moving: “I think… if Washington would shut up occasionally, and let the consumer get his confidence back. It’s a lot of negative news. People don’t like negative news all the time.”

    On health care news: “You turn on the news every day, and there’s another program. It’s health care this and that. Who’s fighting.”

    On her view of the health care legislation: “I don’t even know what they’re trying to pass. I’m well-educated. I read a lot. I’m on Yahoo all the time. I can’t figure it out. How is my family in Minnesota going to figure it out. It’s not that Minnesota families aren’t smart….what’s going on is too hard to figure it out. It just makes people think other bad things are going to happen.”

    Adolph Ochs, she’s not, Jim Batten, she’s not. Katharine Graham, she’s not.

    Ack, bad news. It’s too icky to hear about all the time. And it doesn’t monetize too well, either.

    Bartz was glad to help the CNBC help understand what in fact defines Yahoo today. Among her replies, “We have the content, we have editorial presence, we’re number in finance, sports, front page.”

    So this is where we’ve come to. Yahoo is a quasi-editorial company, glad to be atop the digital news heap, glad to be a partner to the newspaper industry. But that news stuff, it’s awkward. And the CEO of this $6.5 billion company, who is “on Yahoo all day”, is just another one of those Americans who just can’t through the Tea Party haze, and read all the intelligent prose written out there that tells us all very clearly what’s in the health care legislation, whatever we may think about it.

    I sympathize with Bartz. She was brought in to play principal to a bunch of above-average-smart, but undisciplined students. It’s frustrating. But, Carol don’t claim to run one of the biggest digital news companies, say you’re a media company, unlike those single-thought-paid-search techies down the road in Mountain View, and then tell us you don’t like bad news and can’t make heads or tails out of health care. We expect our corporate titans, especially our media corporate titans, most especially our news corporate titans to be a little brighter and savvier than that.

    Bartz’s comments came on the heels of her deputy Hilary Schneider’s new street corner positioning for Yahoo, and its local newspaper partnerships. “Local is digital crack,” she told PaidContent’s Staci Kramer, out of the box in her recent interview. Insert your own joke, here. I just wished that this big media company with a growing editorial presence could be taking something that would make it more news-worthy.

    Disclosure: none
    Stocks: YHOO, GOOG, CMCSA
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