But it never seemed to me like he was fully in charge. I wonder how many stakeholders Consensus had over there in the top suite.
It is okay to blame terry, he has been paid very well, by any standard in corporate america. including his stock grants, semel has certainly extracted hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. For that much money it is fair to expect results. while he doesn't strike one as the type of person to grasp the viability of search, he has surrounded himself with advisors who certainly should have been able to make this assessment.
One can also turn some blame on jerry yang, who was instrumental in attracting terry. Jerry should have known that such a technophobe would have problems dealing with the inevitable semi-technical issues that a yahoo ceo would have to grasp on some meaningful level. It was those senior yahoos who were engaged in the ceo search who incorrectly assumed that yahoo was simply "another media company", and their search was predicated on this. Had they understood that this generalization was meaningless, they would have directed their search elsewhere.
But to be fair, the winds of the internet have shifted. no one cares about "integrated networks" like yahoo and aol anymore because they have failed to deliver more utility than the rest of the web. Google is a rest-of-the-web company...its search and advertizing products leverage the entire web instead of trying to fight it. I'm not sure anyone at yahoo saw this coming.
-- comment to Speculative Fiction, on Terry Semel's decision not to buy Google
Rumors about a msft or some private equity takeout of Yahoo have been bobbing around for years. Sure, Yahoo could do (could have done?) the monetization deal with Google, and become Google's #1 adsense publisher. But on the product side...what would you do?
Take a look at Yahoo's list of products:
Sixyt-one services! 61! How do you wrap a brand around that?
Yahoo used to mean "search", back in 1995. Then they line-extended their name onto everything...even physical stuff, like credit cards and mice and keyboards and a magazine (a real one, on paper!). Now what does Yahoo mean? What is the first word that jumps into people's heads when they think of Yahoo?
I subscribe to Trout-Ries branding. Line extensions == generally harmful. But it's the default silicon valley product manager launch move. You trade short-term interest in a new product for long term damage to the core brand. It takes 5-10 years to build a major brand. And it takes 5-10 years for the full effect of line-extensions to erode a strong brand.
Long after the folks responsible for junk like this have moved on, the effect remains in consumer's collective subconscious memory.
Think about it... Yahoo doesn't mean keyboards. They didn't do plastics or ergonomic research or think of some insight about key travel distance or how audible the click should be or do wireless really well. Apple thinks about that stuff when they do a design. They work closely with the manufacturers to find out the latest materials and new techniques they can incorporate into their products. But Yahoo didn't do that. They just slapped their name on a box.
Anyone who passed this keyboard sitting on a shelf in a store could see that. How many people saw the box vs. bought the thing? They sold some keyboards, but far more people saw the message of the keyboard. A message that Yahoo wasn't only about their directory or search functions. Or even about their website. Yahoo does everything! no... the message was that Yahoo was willing to put their name on anything.
Trout-Ries: If you do everything, then you do nothing...
Mike thinks Yahoo Mail is the first thing that comes to mind for people when they think of Yahoo. I asked my wife, she said Yahoo Groups.
I asked her why she didn't use more Yahoo stuff.
"Well, if you think of the web as a giant marketplace, and you're looking for something, you could go to the "Yahoo company store" and look at what just they have, or you could go through the main door and look at everything."
"What's the main door?"
"I don't know, I guess I just use Google."
Sixty-one services. Not just names on a site-map, they're groups in the org chart.
Google should take a close look at this. They're up to 39 services. 39!
This story is over... now the cycle can start over with Google. I do hope that Google's brand-extending product managers diligently continue their efforts this year. :)