Kara Swisher

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Liveblogging Yahoo's Q1 Earnings Call: Get Me to Funky Town

MicroHoo is funky!

At least according to Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz on the Silicon Valley search giant’s first-quarter earnings conference call about its recent financial performance.

Yahoo’s results showed a continued worrisome revenue growth stall, due in large part to a search advertising fall-off, and a still-turning turnaround.

Yahoo reported revenues of $1.06 billion, down six percent from a year ago, on net earnings of 17 cents a share, down 28 percent.

The results were essentially in line with Wall Street expectations.

2:03 pm PT: The call started right on time, as per usual. Maybe they can’t get search right anymore, but Yahoo execs sure know how to start an analysts’ confab.

Bartz started off the call, noting “overall, our turnaround is proceeding on schedule.”

Well, the schedule of a three-toed sloth, I suppose, but it’s on schedule!

Bartz is too smart, though, and quickly noted the problems with search revenue declines, related to its search and online advertising partnership with Microsoft.

Still, she then used the unusual term “funky comparisons” to dismiss the key issue.

But isn’t she the one who struck the funky deal with Microsoft that has resulted in these funky comparisons and these even funkier search advertising revenues?

Just askin’!

Bartz proceeded quickly to noting Yahoo’s advances due to technology improvements, which showed a doubling of impressions to big events such as the Super Bowl and the Oscars.

It’s a good point, since Yahoo–for all its troubles–is still a huge traffic driver, including serving up 1.3 billion page views for the Oscars.

Bartz talked about monetization and said a lot of other stuff, but got to the finances quickly.

“Search was a mixed bag,” she said flatly. You can say that again–but not in a good way.

Bartz tried to put a good-news spin on it, but had to admit that “on the downside [Microsoft's] adCenter is not seeing strong RPS,” she said.

That’s revenue per search and a key number that Yahoo had thought would be better by now.

Bartz noted that the paid search markets internationally will be delayed until MicroHoo gets its act together.

Good idea!

2:16 pm: CFO Tim Morse took over to go through the numbers.

“We had good display momentum around the globe,” he said.

But search was, um, bad. It underperformed, but Yahoo had that guarantee from Microsoft to pay out, which Morse called a “financial floor.”

Morse pretty much read the press release from here on out.

2:24 pm: Bartz was back talking up the huge audience Yahoo has abroad. And it is true–the Yahoo brand is a golden one globally.

Also video consumption is up too, as it is across the Web, in terms of views and time spent. Yahoo’s “Primetime in No Time” got 500 million streams in the quarter.

Bartz turned to mobile, which is weak no matter what she said about the laudable Livestand. It’s one of many in a very competitive market.

Same for social, which Yahoo has essentially abdicated to Facebook. That said, Yahoo has tried to weave social within its myriad of sites and it gets it, especially compared to the socially awkward Google.

Bartz summed up that she hoped everyone gets that profitability and revenue growth were on track to get better, promising more at the investor day in May.

2:30 pm: Q&A time!

The first question is about display growth. It’s a softball, since display was up.

The next is about other revenue growth areas to come.

Bartz–who seemed not so prepped for such an obvious question–ticked off shopping, travel and uuuuuh….

Morse jumped in and talked about making internal connections, which I also did not understand.

An analyst then wanted to “dig into” search problems. I’d say it’s time to call in Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel!

Relative to RPS, Bartz acknowledged it was low and everyone was studying the issue. There is a plan, apparently. Again, Bartz was maddeningly vague.

I missed the next question and then it was back to search.

Bartz was not getting too specific about search, but would say video advertising was going to do well.

She did note that Yahoo expected a dip in Q1 related to search revenue, “but the dip went a little lower than we expected and lasted a little longer than expected.”

Bartz said she had recently sat down with Microsoft execs to go over the problems. How much would I have liked to have been a fly on that wall!

The next question was about video and it turns out Bartz loves the babbling babies too! I knew we had something cool in common.

The next question is about Japan and the possible deal to sell off Yahoo’s ownership of Yahoo Japan!

Morse said diddly, except “we continue to make progress.”

A question about display and possible content verticals.

Verticals Yahoo is interested in, according to Bartz: Entertainment, lifestyle, women, gossip.

“The things people really want to do, they want to disappear,” said Bartz, which was an interesting way of putting it.

Yet another question in what was beginning to feel like an endless call.

It was about Right Media, Yahoo’s advertising exchange. Cleaning it up, etc.

The next question is about communications, as in email.

Bartz even sounded bored and messed up a few words. “I’ve had too many Diet Cokes,” she joked.

Personally, I am considering disappearing into some content, since there is yet another question.

It’s–no surprise–an RPS question!

Funky!

Search guarantee payments from Microsoft are in place for another four quarters. Thank goodness.

Bartz got more detailed about the problems. There is some kind of prediction issue, which she said Microsoft is working on.

Now a local advertising question and its relationship with Facebook.

Bartz grabbed this one by the horns, noting you don’t have to run to the social networking powerhouse to get you a social ad!

It’s about branding with a social component. Which would be, um, Facebook, which was part of Yahoo’s Chrysler campaign referenced by Bartz.

A question about daily deals.

It’s growing, but more at Groupon and LivingSocial, which Morse does not mention.

Finally, the last question.

Another gigantic softball on engagement and Yahoo’s new content platform and some mobile deets query about whether Yahoo can make it there.

Bartz said she was working on it. As to content, Bartz said stats show big lifts.

“The good news is that it’s all in the right direction,” she said.

Up would certainly be good.


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— Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, in their farewell D post