Kara Swisher

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Liveblogging the Yahoo Second Quarter 2009 Earnings Call: We Are the Kingmaker!


If there’s an earnings call at Yahoo, you know BoomTown is going to liveblog it!

Will Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz say something naughty? (Nope!) What is new CFO Tim Morse like? (Nice!) Will they say anything about the talks with Microsoft (MSFT) about a search and online advertising partnership? (No!)

Oh, it might be a corker!

The earnings results for the second quarter certainly were not.

As I wrote in a previous post:

Yahoo reported so-so second-quarter earnings results today, with a decline in revenues, but with a slightly stronger-than-expected improvement in net income.

For the three months ended June 30, the Internet giant said it had revenues of $1.14 billion, excluding traffic acquisition costs, down from $1.35 billion in the same period a year ago.

That profit was up eight percent, due to cost-cutting. Yahoo said it earned $141.4 million, or 10 cents a share, in the quarter, compared to $131.2 million, or nine cents.

That’s not really saying much, since Wall Street analysts had such low expectations, estimating Yahoo would earn eight cents. But, with a weak advertising market, it is also not that bad.”

Here’s the conference call, updated as it happened:

2:02 pm PST: Music followed by investor relations lady, who had a very nice voice.

She was quick and to the point, and soon enough Bartz was on.

First, she welcomed Morse as CFO, noting he was strong in “efficiency and process.”


Then she pointed out that the new home page for Yahoo–pictured here and you can read about it here–was “available…starting…today.”

Bartz dragged out the words, with a small dramatic flourish.

Then, it was right to the results, which Bartz was bullish on: “Considering the economy, I am pleased with the results.”

Bartz noted that “overall, we are seeing less fear in the marketplace,” although she added that she had no idea when the econalypse would be over.

“It’s easy to see it bumping along the bottom, but it’s too early to call…so, we’ll leave economic predictions to others,” she said.

She moved onto her being happy about all the new execs she had hired, noting that Yahoo was “closing in” on picking an international head (note to myself, get a Yahoo to leak the news to me asap).


2:07 PST: Morse (pictured here) came on and introduced himself. He looks like a CFO and also sounded like one too–calm, cool and collected, as it should be.

After a short talk about his background, he moved onto all the particulars of the quarter–results that had already been released, but Morse repeated them with verve.

I try to listen carefully in these explanations, but I confess that I actually don’t, unless something new happens. It didn’t.

Then Morse was looking forward, including talking some more about marketing spend coming up, as well as explaining what kind of CFO he was going to be.

2:18 PST: Back to Bartz, who started talking about well the long-troubled Silicon Valley icon was doing, even in the weak economy.

She kept calling Yahoo the “world’s biggest Internet media company,” and then said that Yahoo was an “Internet kingmaker” for other Web sites.

Well, it’s kind of true on both counts, so we’ll overlook the bragging.

Bartz then quickly moved through all the various arenas at Yahoo–from advertising to the home page to mobile–where Yahoo was trying to improve and increase its business.

She apparently is aiming to make online ads less annoying–if successful, I propose that Bartz should be awarded some medal of honor.

“We have a clear simple vision to be the center of people lives online,” said Bartz in conclusion, throwing in “kingmaker” again. “At the end of the day, we know who we are and know what we need to do to win.”


2:33 pm PST: Question time!

The first was about what Bartz thinks about Bing, the new Microsoft search engine, because it might take a while for these Wall Street analysts–reporters don’t get to ask questions–to screw up the courage to ask her outright about any Microsoft deal.

Bartz was unusually cordial, which is how someone about to be hitched needs to be.

“I think Bing is a good product…I think Microsoft should be given kudos for Bing,” she said. Hmmmm….

The next question was about the intent of Yahoo to invest in search, as opposed to display advertising. Another veiled Microsoft search deal question.

Bartz noted that Yahoo was investing in the user. Nice way not to answer the question!

2:38 pm PST: A question about spending and if there was going to be more.

Bartz noted that Yahoo was restructuring costs, rather than cutting and burning. She noted, for example, that more marketing spend was part of the plan.

Morse used a bucket analogy, and talked about draining costs back and forth, which was apt.

The next question was about advertising revenues, and whether they would grow. Also, more questions about costs.

Morse noted good strength in a lot of areas in the premium sector. As to cost structure: “We’re repositioning the business.”

2:48 pm PST:

Another cost question. I am officially ignoring it.

The next question was about how Yahoo was going to keep fixing APT, its newest advertising platform, which some think is too hard to use.

Bartz, who has insulted it in the past, was now kind of nice about it, noting that they were working on making it better.

A question about owned-and-operated search and its relationship with Yahoo’s affiliate search, which had been stronger. Not a trend, said Bartz flatly.

More about search and whether scale matters in search (another sneaky way to ask about Microsoft). “Of course scale matters,” said Bartz, who joked she would be happy to switch share positions with Google (GOOG).

A question about the new home page and its monetization and why it was announced today, as opposed to the fall, as planned.

Bartz did not really explain why or about revenue, but she sounded good.


The last question was about improvements in search share and monetization (translation: I want to ask about Microsoft, but I am too much of a wimp).

Bartz talked about better targeting, improved experience, driving relevancy and the prominent position of search on the front page. That will lead to more money, she noted.

Again, it’s not exactly an answer, but it sounded good.

Then it was over, although Bartz ended by urging everyone to “go look at the new home page.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik