Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Liveblogging Yahoo’s 3Q Earnings: Busy, Busy, Busy (So Go Away, Tim Armstrong!)

Here we go with the Yahoo third-quarter earnings call starring CEO Carol Bartz, who has some–in the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo–‘splaining to do.

Yahoo turned in a much-needed solid quarterly earnings report, with slightly better-than-expected earnings, although still weak revenue.

Of course, there are all the takeover rumors, the exec departures and fights with partners such as China’s Alibaba Group.

2 pm PT: First on is the lovely investor relations lady, Marta, saying stuff I never pay attention to.

But Bartz came on right away and she sounded subdued and very much on script.

Good idea!

She began by explaining what she has been up to and–once again with feeling–exactly what Yahoo is.

“The key words are innovative, content, media and communications,” she stressed.

Technology is all well and good, but Yahoo is the “largest digital media, content and communications company.”

She also briefly addressed the departure of execs: “Some people leave, some get promoted and some good people arrive.”

Well, you could put such turmoil that matter-of-factly, I suppose.

Bartz then asked the question: “What have we done to re-engineer Yahoo?”

She reeled off a list she has repeated many times before, the point of which was to let us all know she has been mighty busy cleaning up the big mess she had to deal with on arrival.

So lay off, all you naysayers! It’s kind of like what President Barack Obama is saying these days, as he looks forward to huge political losses in the upcoming election.

It’s apparently a disciplined approach. “First you walk, then you run.” Then, she added, you FLY!

Don’t look down, Carol!

She promised to talk about what’s on all our minds–as in the takeover swirl related to AOL, News Corp. and a passel of private equity moneybags circling Yahoo.

2:15 pm: Time for the numbers from CFO Tim Morse, which you can see here.

He was much jauntier than usual. I wonder if that was in the script. Smile with your voice, Tim!

I mostly did not listen to this spiel, as it was a recount of the numbers I already read. But there are some nuggets.

Apparently, for example, revenue for owned and operated search is down because users are clicking on the really good new results from the Microsoft algorithmic search transition, so they are not clicking on paid search as much.

Hmmm….I wonder what happens when they get great.

Then it was on to earnings and stock repurchases, designed to goose the shares, which Yahoo considers undervalued.

So do investors.

Next, he moved on to the outlook, which was weak.

And Morse also noted the uncertainty that has to do with the search and online advertising alliance transition. “Caution is warranted,” said Morse.

“We’re pleased with our third-quarter results,” summarized Morse, seemingly ignoring the revenue issue.

2:31 pm: Bartz was then back on discussing the search alliance and the rocky relationship with China’s Alibaba Group. Rocky is my word and actually is also Alibaba’s.

At least all is well with Microsoft, Yahoo’s one-time nemesis.

It has been a big transition, of course, Bartz noted. Indeed.

Then Bartz went out of her way in praising Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, whom many sources said she has treated shabbily in the past.

It is “a good productive business relationship,” said Bartz.

Other than that, she politely suggested we all butt out of what Yahoo is going to do with the asset, a 29 percent stake of Alibaba.com worth $3.1 billion, according to the company.

Finally, Bartz said Yahoo had “potential” and promised a payoff to shareholders in the months ahead.

That would be nice.

2:38 pm: Time for Q&A.

The first question was about the search revenue growth. Soon!

The next was about search revenue and display advertising and a left-field query on engagement on smartphones.

Same answer, and also people will use Yahoo on any screen.

Next question was on display growth. Same answer.

Will any of these analysts ask the good questions about takeover rumors and other thorny management issues?

Wait, finally there came a sheepish request for clarification about the rumors–well, they are real, so realmors–about takeover plans by private equity folks, along with AOL’s Tim Armstrong.

“As tempting as it is to tell you what I really think, you know I can’t comment,” said Bartz, who really sounded like she wanted to comment.

Give in, Carol! In the words of Oscar Wilde, which is BoomTown’s operating motto: “I can resist everything except temptation.”

Nope, she will not utter a word about “hypothetical this and hypothetical that.”

Instead, the boilerplate: “We like our strategy, we like our progress, and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Next, more questions about revenue weakness. Bartz blamed it all on the drag of search revenue. “The main drag on our growth has been search revenue,” she noted.

She said it will get better once the whole transition kicks in.

Bartz did sound convincing, especially when she noted it was part of a six-year trend in decline in search. By the end of 2011, she promised, it will all be different.

But, in the immortal words of Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry”: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

Now, a question about a “bloated” work force. Yahoo employee count is up seven percent, although costs are down 12 percent.

Morse: “No, we’re not bloated.”

Bartz took a question about competition in the display market, as in Yahoo is going to get smacked by rivals, such as Google.

“There is always competition and competition only makes us better,” said Bartz. “We’re running very fast and not going to give up this leadership in display very easily.”

Given Google’s inroads here, she better run faster than the Road Runner.

The last question was about monetization of mobile.

Lots of pretty, empty words from Bartz, especially since Yahoo does not have a really competitive offering compared to Google and Apple.

It should be added that both Google and Apple smoked it in terms of revenue growth in their quarterly earnings this week.

Also, I hear that Facebook social networking site is growing pretty quickly.

And it ended, with nary a decent question from Wall Street analysts about the clear turmoil at the long-troubled Silicon Valley icon and answers about what Bartz is going to do to address it.

The media is in listen-only mode for these calls, which is a shame, since I for one would love to listen to what Bartz has to say.

I know you’re busy and all, Carol, but perhaps you can talk over dinner soon?

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle