OK, everybody is going to have a go at it, so I figured I’d do the same. Note that I haven’t been at Yahoo! in a long time, nor read in details all piece of data around. This is more about me sharing my vision of where Yahoo! should go.
First, Yahoo is a technology company. Its technology is about serving the right content, to the right people at the right time. That’s it. Don’t make it more complicated. Stick to that. And no, Yahoo! shouldn’t be a content company. Content company means you’re creating content. It’s too expensive, and doesn’t scale. Don’t create, partner.
Yahoo! needs to be the service that brings you the right content, no matter where you are, or what devices you’re using.
What does it mean from a high level strategy perspective: there are a few key words here: right, content, no matter where or what.
– Right: it’s all about relevancy. Yahoo! needs to know what you need, when you need it. This involves understanding location, connections (social graph), history, preferences and how you value your past experience. Yahoo! needs to be able to figure out what’s good for you. Like Pandora figures out what music you’re going to listen to.
– Content: the best content needs to be on Yahoo!. Yahoo! shouldn’t create it, but partner to acquire it and then distribute it to its user base.
– No matter where or what: that’s pretty obvious these days, but the Yahoo! experience needs to be everywhere: tablets, cell, desktop, tv.
What really kills me is that Yahoo! has most of those things at hands these days:
With Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, Yahoo! Address Book, Yahoo! has a social graph. I always thought Yahoo! should buy Skype just for the social graph it would create outside the US. But just by combining all those, and using that data with the goal of improving relevancy, they have a very valuable social graph.
They have some of the best content out there (Flickr, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Movies etc…) and their leadership in entertainement, news and sports is a living proof of that. Double down on it. Get more. Get better.
Yahoo! was one of the first to provide kick ass mobile experience. It was just on the wrong platform. Mistakes happen, but the vision was right.
The key here, and where Yahoo! probably had most of its problems is in the execution. There must be one Yahoo! experience, the same way there is one Facebook experience: on Facebook, you do everything from one page: see photos, message your friends, etc… On Yahoo!, it’s much more complicated. The web has been transformed, and things happen with less clicks. Yahoo!’s overall experience is still too fragmented. You go to a Yahoo! homepage which is totally irrelevant then you’ll find what you want a few clicks down the line. There is no reason for me to see dating on the Yahoo! homepage. Just show me my stuff!
The homepage is built to provide value to the business, not the user. Properties want their link on the Yahoo! homepage because without it, they have no traffic. If you can’t get traffic without the Yahoo! homepage, then you’re probably not a good product! What about changing that?
That page needs to be about me. Just me. And that page follows me anywhere. It knows where I am. It knows on which device I am. It knows if it’s time for me to eat and suggest places to go. It knows I’m in a cinema, and show me reviews of the movies playing there. It also tells me where my friends are, what they’re doing. Oh, I’m a Giants fan, well guess what, they’re playing tonight, and there are super cheap tickets to be bought on stubhub for you. You’re at the game, let us connect you with all the fans who are there. That’s what Yahoo! should be.
Yahoo! shouldn’t be a list of properties that try to integrate, but a single experience, all about me, the user, exposing all the content that I should see right now and improving my life.
Some folks are probably going to say: oh yeah, easy to say, but it’s hard to do, and you don’t really care about monetization. I actually care a lot about $. But usually, when you create a great experience for users, something that will improve their lives, like Yahoo! did in the early days, your user base will increase, and more importantly, the relationship you’ll have with them will be much better. Money will follow. It kills to hear that the focus for the new CEO will be revenues and profits. If what comes out of that is a new focus on product, then great. But revenues will come from a great product (with some exceptions, but Yahoo! is broad enough for that statement to be true).
What I know is that Yahoo! needs to go back to its original roots, where risk taking was promoted. Nothing consumer facing has came out of Yahoo! in the past 4-5 years. How come Yahoo! Messenger is not a twitter client yet? I mean, seriously… Most users come to the Yahoo! homepage because they want to check their mail. Give it to them there. Change that homepage. Take a hit. Make it a great experience.
I wouldn’t be shy of saying that to accomplish that, you’ll need to take a hit in the next 18 months. You may not make as much revenues as planned. But you’re not going to anyway, so at least use that to grow and come out in a better position.
Obviously, it’s super easy to say all those things from where I sit and much harder when you’re in charge. I have many dear friends at Yahoo! and I truly love that place. I wish it the best and want more than anyone else to see it gain back its leadership.
UPDATE: I should have added that to execute that plan, you need to do deep cuts which is always unpopular, and very hard to do. That’s probably the hardest thing to do, but you need to get back in a mode where execution is everything, and the fewer people, the more you’ll execute. Or at least, you only keep those who believe in that.