Turning the Tables: Carol Bartz Grills BoomTown in the Yahoo Cafeteria (Over Easy With a Side of Disclosure)
Today, BoomTown gassed up the Mini Cooper and motored down to the Sunnyvale, Calif., HQ of Yahoo, this time with a tiny bit of trepidation.
Okay, not that much, but some!
Why? Because Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz had invited me to be the first in a new speaker series, “Yahoo From the ‘Outside In,'” for employees at the Internet giant, due to my intense–some might say obsessive–interest in the company.
The twist: Bartz herself conducted the interview with me in front of about 600 Yahoos gathered in the company’s URL’s Café, the main cafeteria at Yahoo.
As it turned out, she was pretty good at playing the journalist, asking about a range of things, including how I get my sources (I never kiss and tell), what I would do if I ran Yahoo (run it right into another wall, I am sure) and what Yahoo should focus on (content, content and content–also mobile!).
The Yahoos had some good, and tough, questions for me too, including about my sometimes snarky tone in posts, my personal relationship with a Google exec (see my copious disclosure here) and my thoughts on the future of content (bright for Yahoo, not so much for newspapers).
We also talked about a variety of tech companies, such as Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), Facebook, Twitter and Amazon (AMZN).
And, as Yahoos have tweeted, I did say I had a “man-crush” on Bartz (but only after she claimed I had a regular one) and described myself as a “sparkly vampire” when asked about my late-night blogging habits.
Overall, I think these kinds of encounters are a good thing, especially since they allow each side–if there are sides–to understand perspectives better.
It is easy for the press to be too glib and reactionary to a lot of stuff we cover and much harder to be fair and get it right.
But, as I told the Yahoos who wondered why the media in general were so down on the company at times, I am not there to make them feel better about their company. Instead, I am there to try to write accurately about what’s going on inside the iconic and pioneering Silicon Valley company–hopefully, some innovation–for better or worse.
While I have asked Yahoo for a video of the interview Bartz did of me that I can embed, here’s one I made of my visit–which includes a chat with Bartz, a forced BoomTown chant by Yahoos and a glimpse of the true power behind the Yahoo throne, Bartz’s longtime assistant Judy Flores (pictured here)–as well as the internal memo I was leaked by many, many Yahoos before my event (May, it’s moot now!):
From: Yahoo Communications
Date: February 1, 2010 12:36:33 PM PST
Subject: Special Event with Carol Bartz and Kara Swisher on Monday, February 8th
Reply-To: Yahoo Communications
Yahoo! from the “Outside In”: Special Event with Carol Bartz and Kara Swisher on Monday, February 8th
Searching for a new perspective? We’re excited to announce “Outside In,” a new speaker series aimed at putting Yahoos in the very same room with technology luminaries and experts.
Our debut event will be hosted by Carol Bartz and will feature Kara Swisher, Co-Executive Editor of All Things Digital, a website devoted to news, analysis and opinion on technology, the Internet, and media. Kara also hosts the Boomtown blog and is co-producer of D: All Things Digital, the successful high-tech and media conference.
Kara started covering digital issues for The Wall Street Journal’s San Francisco bureau in 1997. Prior to that, Kara worked as a reporter at the Washington Post. She is also the author of “aol.com: How Steve Case Beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads and Made Millions in the War for the Web,” and the sequel, “There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere: The AOL Time Warner Debacle and the Quest for a Digital Future”.
This exciting session will be Yahoo!’s opportunity to turn the tables on Kara and ask her questions about the industry, media, Yahoo! and our competitors, so don’t miss it! There will also be a portion of the hour dedicated to Q&A with Yahoos.
A video of this session will be posted on Backyard shortly after the event.
Monday, February 8th
10:00 – 11:00 a.m. PST
URL’s Café, Building C, Sunnyvale
Note: URL’s will be closing at 9:45 a.m. on Monday for this event.