John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

What Is Yahoo? Still One of Life’s Unanswerable Questions.

What is Yahoo?

That question has been put to the company’s leadership innumerable times over the past few years, each time with wildly different answers:

At D6 in 2008, Yahoo co-founder and then-CEO Jerry Yang said the company is a consumer starting point on the Web. “We want you to start your day at Yahoo,” he said.

At D7 a year later, Yang’s successor, the recently ousted Carol Bartz, defined the company as something entirely different: “The place where people find relevant contextual information about things they care about.”

And in 2010, when the question was asked of Yahoo EVP Blake Irving, he replied with the most unwieldy, nonsensical answer of all.

“Yahoo is a global series of Web experiences delivered across a variety of devices that gives people what they want,” he said. “It connects advertisers to a global audience. Yahoo is all about delivering experiences to individuals that make them engage with each other. Folks always ask, ‘Is Yahoo a search company? A content company? A communications company?’ In a world where people only have so much time, we’d like to help them engage with the things that matter most to them.”

That’s a pretty lousy elevator pitch.

So when the “What is Yahoo” question was put to Yang once again, at AsiaD today, expectations for a decent answer weren’t particularly high. Good thing, too, because he didn’t exactly raise the bar with his reply.

What is Yahoo? “It’s the premier digital media company,” Yang said.

The premier digital media company? Really? I imagine Apple, Amazon and YouTube might have a thing or two to say about that — even if Yahoo’s video and entertainment offerings in India are as big as Yang claims.

So again, what is Yahoo?

Who knows? But maybe it’s time to stop asking.


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