Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Defining Yahoo: Beyond the Pail

gal·va·nize [gal-vuh-nahyz]
–verb (used with object), -nized, -niz·ing.
1. to stimulate by or as if by a galvanic current.
2. Medicine/Medical. to stimulate or treat (muscles or nerves) with induced direct current (distinguished from faradize).
3. to startle into sudden activity; stimulate.
4. to coat (metal, esp. iron or steel) with zinc.
Also, especially British, gal·va·nise.

[Origin: 1795–1805; < F galvaniser, named after Luigi Galvani; see -ize]


Oh, my.

A pail?

That’s the exact image I got when I heard the unusual word Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Jerry Yang used when he decided to finally emerge from the cone of silence (where, let’s be clear, he has been living for the last year) and make a public declaration about the unsolicited bid Microsoft (MSFT) had made for the company he co-founded.

“Obviously I think we can’t say a whole lot about the process we’re going through. Everybody has read about everything we’re doing, so there’s not much more to add,” said Yang in a Q&A session after a keynote speech he gave yesterday at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s yearly meeting.

Noting he wanted to make sure that “where Yahoo goes is the right place” for everyone involved and standing by the company’s assertion that the Microsoft offer was too low, Yang characterized the takeover attempt as “a galvanizing event for all of us at Yahoo.”

Yang was echoed almost exactly at the IAB event by Yahoo President Sue Decker, who said the Microsoft bid was a “galvanizing force and a catalyst.”

Obviously, teams of strategic advisers were up all night chugging Red Bull to come up with this particular word to trot out for the official talking points memo. (One has to wonder what the No. 2 word was–Stomach-churning? Migraine-inducing? Panic-attack-creating?)

Of course, if they had actually checked the definition, like the one above, one might have imagined they would have thought twice about using it.

Because, leaving aside No. 1, No. 2 and, most especially, No. 4 (ouch!), No. 3 is not exactly what I would imagine Yahoo shareholders and employees want to think of the company’s leaders.

That is, being startled into sudden activity. Other definitions are similar, but they all have to do with reacting as if stimulated by an electric shock (Merriam-Webster), instead of acting without that kind of painful prodding.

Of course, you might think continually declining search-market share over the last year might have zapped Yahoo execs.

Or quarter after quarter of flat earnings.

Or the stock price drifting downward to dangerous levels.

Or all those departing execs and deepening morale problems.

Or, of course, that sticky peanut butter memo that, in hindsight, outlined the problems at Yahoo pretty clearly.

But, of course, it did actually take the attack from Microsoft to spur this recent spate of frantic activity from Yahoo, whether it be kibitzing with Google about outsourcing search (now obviously a nonstarter) or talking to companies like News Corp. (owner of Dow Jones and All Things Digital) about possible merger combinations (which all sound painfully complex) or focusing on new product innovations (like a new Digg competitor called Buzz, which we will feature on this site).

One also imagines other ideas being cooked up, such as a significant acquisition.

For example, I would not be surprised if Yahoo was taking a long look at the for-sale-sort-of social-networking site Bebo, which–if it does get snapped up soon, instead of raising funds–will likely get picked up by a media company like Viacom or CBS.

Well, it is nice to see such energy out of Sunnyvale at long last, even though most agree that it is only a matter of time before Microsoft prevails in its aggressive quest to own Yahoo.

And while Microsoft execs have recently promised to protect the Yahoo brand and keep its significant presence in Silicon Valley intact, all the galvanizing in the world will not mask the truth.

And that is: The idea of an independent Yahoo, which is still a laudable one, is probably about to kick the bucket.

Maybe a galvanized bucket, but a bucket nonetheless.

In the meantime, here’s the Chemical Brothers’ 2005 terrifically energetic hit, “Galvanize,” which might provide some inspiration to Yang and the Yahoo board as they move to their inevitable decision.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.

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