Reports of Yahoogle's Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
Today, The Deal got played–my guess is some disgruntled outer player in the regulatory roundelay–and claimed that Yahoo and Google were likely to abandon their controversial search ad outsourcing deal.
Wrote The Deal’s Cecile Kohrs: “A proposed joint venture between rival Internet companies Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. appears headed for the trash bin, just ahead of an expected U.S. Department of Justice challenge to the agreement, lawyers close to the deal said.”
Well, maybe it will die at some point. But, in the words of Juba in the last line of the greatest movie ever (“Gladiator,” of course!): Not yet.
Said Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich: “We are continuing to have cooperative discussions with the Department of Justice about this arrangement and agreed to a brief delay in implementing the agreement while those discussions continue. We are confident that the arrangement is beneficial to competition, but we are not going to discuss the details of the process.”
It was a sentiment underscored by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who was doing an economic summit with Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama today in Florida and told reporters there when asked about the deal: “We agreed to extend our discussions … with the DOJ.”
Yahoo’s CEO Jerry Yang also said the same during Yahoo’s third-quarter earnings call this afternoon.
In fact, that Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) lawyers, along with the Justice Department, are still talking is the strongest indication that there might be some middle ground to be found in the fight over the future of the search advertising business.
After all, Google is not shy about going to court. Among many others, it took on media giant Viacom over YouTube’s copyright issues with all the relish of a lipstick-wearing pit bull.
In fact, I am convinced that the search giant’s corporate mantra is from Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver”: You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking … you talking to me? Well, I’m the only one here.
And Yahoo? Well, Yahoo can never stop talking, as evidenced recently by its never-ending discussions to merge with the Time Warner (TWX) online unit, AOL.
This is an overall corporate characteristic–Yahoo often has the tone of a 1970s encounter group.
Plus, the deal to put some Google search ads on its site is an important fountain of revenue Yahoo desperately needs. For its part, Google wants the deal, mostly to keep Microsoft (MSFT) at bay.
As for the Justice Department, it has one big problem if it does go hot and files a lawsuit against the Yahoogle twins: A little thing I like to call “proof.”
Now I am no legal eagle, but I am told by experts that it is a little hard to prove damage that has not occurred yet if it is seeking an injunction to stop implementation of the partnership.
It’s like the big question in that dumb but watchable Tom Cruise movie, “Minority Report”: Can you arrest someone for a murder they might commit?
Google, with its dominant market share that grows daily, may very well be the scariest company on the planet.
(I think it might indeed be and have written in opposition many times to this partnership of the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the search space, but who am I to say?)
But making a case that it will turn Yahoo into a satellite, raise ad prices and turn into Godzilla, all before it actually happens, is tough.
More to the point, with all the pressure from public interest groups and advertisers who oppose the deal without some checks and balances, along with Microsoft’s relentless lobbying, some accommodation obviously must be made.
Thus, that is going to take more days of jabbering, probably into next week (although it all does have to be settled before the election, when the regulators pressing the case might be out of a job).
After those blabby avenues are exhausted, of course, we might very well see the digital gladiators go at it. Or abandon the field.
But not yet.
Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.