As a Yahoo enthusiast and shareholder it’s been hard to watch the company struggle so hard over the past few years only to lose ground to Google, especially because Yahoo’s social networking efforts and web 2.0 initiatives have in most ways been superior to Google’s. Flickr is the best example of a superb Yahoo application that is more used than Google’s Picasa (which is also excellent but was late to the scene so most early adopters are sticking with Flickr, which is somewhat better anyway in my view).
Henry Blodget at Silicon Valley Insider is reporting that Yahoo will proceed soon with the drastic layoff scenario – rumored to be some 1500-2500 people.
Human issues aside, this will likely be very good for the stock price and company’s future prospects. Google learned early on that the key to profitability was scaling up systems without comparable scaling up of staff. Google thus leveraged the incredible efficiency of computers to generate more profits. Yahoo, on the other hand and especially with Terry Semel in charge, sees themselves as more of a media and content producer with all the labor intensiveness and lack of internet efficiency that approach entails. Google was right, Yahoo was wrong. Even Google’s own Youtube, a masterpiece of creating cheap content without staff, is struggling to monetize all the content and traffic.
I’m oversimplifying the relationship of content production to profit here, but in general terms I continue to believe that the expression “content is king” was *never* true on the internet, and that in many ways sticking to this mantra cost Yahoo a big part of the ballgame. Yahoo actually used Google search as Yahoo’s search tool for many years, and could certainly have aquired Google in the early days for millions of dollars rather than becoming eclipsed by Google which now has a market capitalization of about five times Yahoo. Why didn’t they do it? Google was “search”, not “content”, and Yahoo foolishly believed content was king.
Content is a pawn in the big online chess game, and don’t forget it.