Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Liveblogging the Yahoo Fourth-Quarter Earnings Call: Can You Say "Sequential"? (Also Homepage Hover Out!)

BoomTown, as usual, liveblogged Yahoo’s fourth quarter earnings call, which starred Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz. She was sick in the last quarter, with CFO Tim Morse filling in.

Tim tried, but could not channel Carol’s kinetic and sometimes caustic energy.

But she returned today, not with a bang, but not with a whimper either.

Yahoo (YHOO) reported results earlier today that slightly exceeded expectations in the fourth quarter, but it was no blowout.

Here we go:

2:01 pm PT: It begins! Bartz was on the horn, along with Morse, said the lady who always does all the legalese stuff at the start. I am oddly looking forward to this.

Bartz began by laying out the situation at the Silicon Valley icon, in an unusually sedate fashion for the normally ebullient exec.

“What a ride it’s been,” said Bartz about her first year at Yahoo, which she described as “bumpy.”

She talked about the phases she has been through: Improving products, improving advertising and improving “how we generate value.”

Bartz reminisced about all her accomplishments, sort of like a television highlights sports report. She has been busy!

Bartz noted that Yahoo revenue declines were not as bad as the decimation of traditional media. Not much of a comparison, really, since that’s like comparing the impact of a small storm to that of a major hurricane.

Plus: Other online companies are growing much faster than Yahoo.

2:09 pm: CFO Morse came on, noting that while search and display revenue was down (15 percent and one percent), it was up since the previous quarter. As I previously noted: Not-as-down is the new up!

It was all about “sequential” growth, said Morse, which appeared to be the buzzword of this call.

Morse had a jaunty tone of someone who feels a little better, but is smart enough not to crow too much.

Over the next year, though, he promised “we expect to grow revenue.”

Not from the Microsoft (MSFT) search and online advertising deal as yet in 2010, he noted, but it was coming.

Yahoo’s 2010 financial priorities: Investments in the business and simplification of the business (translation: sell off more dopey stuff and clean up the place more).

2:19 pm: Back to Bartz, who reminded folks that she predicted brand advertising would be back and it is now coming back!

She TOLDJA!

“We are now delivering relevant audiences at scale,” she said. Yahoo can indeed brag about display, and Bartz did, noting television was Yahoo’s true competition.

She mentioned the recent deal with Hollywood mogul Ben Silverman to make content for Yahoo, giving him props (which not everyone in the entertainment industry does).

But, said Bartz, Yahoo was not abandoning its search ad business. Once again, it’s up sequentially!

“Search is a top priority for us,” she said emphatically.

It better be.

Bartz also talked about mobile and what useless units Yahoo was selling.

“But 2010 is not about divestitures for Yahoo,” she promised, noting she was in a buying mood. Yahoo has about $4.5 billion in the kitty, so that’s good.

Nonetheless, there would be no big deals, said Bartz, who correctly noted they never work.


And, said Bartz firmly: “We’re done looking inward.”

No more Yahoo navel-gazing? Now, that would be sequentially exciting!

2:30 pm: Question time!

The first is about display ad growth and whether publishers will be pulling inventory away from ad networks.

Morse and Bartz noted that all was well, so not so much.

Next question: What about the decline in page views and the impact of the $100 million marketing campaign?

Bartz noted that people are increasingly looking at engagement over page views, as well as “good quality insights” to advertisers.

She also added that the “It’s Y!ou” ad campaign was going well, and would be moving to a product focus (as I reported in December).

Next question: On affiliate strength, and comScore search share numbers, which have not been so good.

Morse declined to comment. Search volume is up, he noted, “but clearly we want to do better and better.”

As I said, they better do better and better!

Next question: On costs and international efforts.

Morse noted Yahoo had been working on it, though it was going to reinvest.

On Yahoo’s global performance, Bartz liked Asia and not so much with Germany, where the company needs to macht schnell!

Next question: Another question on the impact of marketing.

fb_2

News alert! Bartz said Yahoo is removing the hover feature from the top of the homepage, which has been driving advertisers and ME crazy!

Everyone hated the hover, which covered up everything, even though it sought to help users see stuff better.

I am so excited that I miss the next questions, which were dull anyway about traffic acquisition costs and analytics.

Finally, one on the Microsoft deal and how it will be implemented. It will be done well, said Bartz.

More on international.

More news: Bartz, who admitted she has not been able to get a decent international head, revealed more new by announcing she will have three regions report into her, restructuring the global set-up a bit.

Gone will be Emerging Markets head, who will become a Global Initiatives SVP, with those regions being sucked up by the other three.

A question about Alibaba, which criticized Yahoo’s backing of Google (GOOG) on the China battle recently, and how Yahoo and the Chinese Internet player are getting on. Yahoo owns a big piece of Alibaba.

Fine, said Bartz (though, I can tell you, it’s actually a very tense relationship, since well before the recent spat).

More on engagement and other even more boring question.

Last question comes about video usage and relationships with content providers.

Bartz loves content! “I think we have been a good content partner,” she said. “Trust me, we are doing a lot of thinking on this.”

Indeed, she should, because for all its challenges, Yahoo should be the king of content.

3:06 pm: The call ended with a cordial goodbye from Bartz.

There have been no fireworks at all, as has often been the case with her. Instead, think sequential and you have a good idea about Yahoo’s year ahead.


Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

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