Kara Swisher

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CEO Thompson Tells Yahoos “Real Change Is Coming” (It’s Exclusive Internal Memo Time!)

It began: “Yahoos: A lot has happened since I last talked to you.”

You can say that again!

Yesterday, Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson sent out an email to the troops in what appears to be an attempt to soothe the company, which has been under a lot of stress, including more high-level exec departures, board changes and more. More importantly, the Silicon Valley Internet giant is nervously waiting for a restructuring expected to hit within weeks, and also has been unnnerved by Thompson’s aggressive legal attack on one of its key partners, social networking site Facebook.

Unfortunately, the memo didn’t say much, except vaguely but definitively referencing that even more tumult was coming.

After noting that he had been making a “deep dive” into the company after getting there at the beginning of the year, Thompson said that he was focused on “what makes Yahoo special and what doesn’t work.”

The plan then? To get the company to be “aggressive and lean forward,” because “real change is coming.”

Rut-roh.

(In a related move, but not noted in the memo — which several sources said was linked to all the uncertainty around the expected restructuring and also high costs — Thompson also cancelled Yahoo’s annual global sales meeting, which was to be held for about 1,300 advertising staffers in Florida later in the month.)

“We are moving as fast with real urgency to move back to Yahoo playing offense once again,” said the Thompson memo, which was read to me by several sources, because of increased worries about the company once again hunting for leakers.

(Apparently, like his predecessor before him did unsuccessfully early in her tenure, Thompson is on a yet another pointless hunt for those who talk to outsiders. Memo to Scott: Yahoo is an online media company and not a pay-for-that-used-iPad-on-eBay outfit and the peeps there like to share.)

Back to the memo action. “Were are fundamentally rethinking every part of our business and looking at all options to put maximum effort where we can succeed,” wrote Thompson. “I’m putting tons of pressure on my leadership team … so we can move faster and more deliberately.”

He added — and the bolding is his — “the changes we make will not be incremental ones. We will make bold, fundamental changes to what we do and how we do it.”

After properly freaking the Yahoo staff out — with everyone trying to grok exactly what that meant in terms of their jobs — Thompson then went into three core things the company was going to focus on under his rule (more bolding!):

“1) Focusing intently on those parts of the business that have a competitive advantage.

2) Liberating all of us to work faster and make better decisions.

3) Thinking really creatively about how to build new businesses that leverage our trusted relationships with users.”

Those will be applied, wrote Thompson, to five key parts of Yahoo: Its core business (such as the homepage and news); platforms (such as its cloud services and Yahoo Publishing Platform); data (which Thompson said was the “single most underrated, underappreciated and underused asset, also calling it a “cornerstone for the next generation” of Yahoo); international; and an amorphous thing he called “our future.”

About that, Thompson said Yahoo would “go beyond simply protecting our core assets … we will more than just tweak what we have today … to innovate, acquire and disrupt outside our core.”

Then, without giving any specifics at all, he noted that it’s as “important to know what we’ll do as how,” before launching into three “core principles” for the company, which were all in bold caps (this dude loves punctuating, which I can appreciate!).

They are:

LISTEN, UNDERSTAND AND PUT THE CUSTOMER FIRST.

MOVE WITH SPEED IN EVERYTHING WE DO.

GET STUFF DONE.

(Thompson also underlined “listen,” as well as bolding it, in an orgy of key-shifting.)

“I learned early in my career that innovative concepts without execution are of no value,” he then said, in a classic business-bromide tone. “The Yahoo of the future has to be the organization that consistently surprises the world by how much we get done and deliver to our customers.”

The letter did reference the patent-infringement lawsuit with Facebook at the very end.

“I want to point out that this lawsuit has one simple purpose: Protecting valuable assets of the company and its shareholders,” Thompson wrote. “Others have respected and have licensed our valuable innovations and Facebook must too.”

Thompson ended by noting that “my door is open.” It will be interesting to see who has the guts to walk through it today.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald