Kara Swisher

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Liveblogging Yahoo’s Q2 Earnings: The 100 Percent Less Marissa Edition (Sigh)

Today, Yahoo reported fair to middling — although still predictably unspectacular — second-quarter earnings earlier today.

Now it’s time for its financial call with Wall Street analysts, which most notably will not include its spanking new CEO Marissa Mayer.

Giant, prolonged sigh, but not entirely unexpected, since she just got to the Silicon Valley Internet giant today. Of course, that did not stop former CEO Carol Bartz from hopping on right after she was hired and cussing up a storm.

That did not end so well for Bartz, so perhaps Mayer has already made one good decision. Minimize, minimize, minimize expectations!

Here we go:

2:04 pm: The call starts off with the tireless CFO Tim Morse, telling people that he was very excited about the new CEO, but that he could not talk about it much.

Bummer!

But there was a message from Marissa Mayer, though: She cares about investors and you will be hearing from her soon!

2:06 pm: Morse, the numbers guy goes right into the script reciting the meh numbers, which boil down to the fact that earnings were better than expected on lackluster revenue growth.

Getting that up will be Job #1 for the missing Mayer — you just know she is sitting at the table right now — who will have to pull some major rabbits out of the hat to get Yahoo back into the conversation.

That would be the good conversation — about how it is innovative — and not about the bad conversation about what a management goat rodeo it has been for far too long.

2:09 pm: Morse is still repeating what you could read in the press release.

But ho! Morse notes that the problems with Microsoft and its search partnership still has not gotten better and thank goodness for that guarantee. This one’s on the software giant, but it is still not good.

2:13 pm: Morse notes there will be no guidance until Mayer gets up to speed on the situation at Yahoo.

Let me give you the Cliff Notes version, Marissa: Revenue growth flat. Employee morale weak. Product innovation non-existent. Mobile — don’t make me cry. But you do have a video deal with Tom Hanks called “Electric City” that is launching today!

Yay! Except you are now not a media company now that former interim CEO Ross Levinsohn has gotten jacked.

But the Olympics are coming, as are the U.S. elections, so you might want to hold onto that media excellence at Yahoo for a little while longer.

2:17 pm: Morse finishes up the non-news script and we move into the Q&A.

He warns: No Marissa queries!

The Wall Street analysts behave on cue — they never fail me on not asking the tough questions — and ask about the weakness in advertising pricing rates.

Morse talks about weakness in Europe, but gives a non-answer.

2:18 pm: Next a question about the stock buyback that Yahoo announced to get its shares back up to speed, using money from its partial sale of its Alibaba assets.

It’s not working yet, given the stock has remained flat since forever.

A question on the advertising softness and comments on revenue per search. Good one!

Headwinds from broadband advertising! “We’ll have to live through it,” says Morse, which means when crappy comparisons will return to make the revenue fall-off seem less worse.

Onto declining engagement and declining search revenue. And a good query about what to do about Microsoft?

Perhaps another partner, like Google, to replace it? Actually, until Mayer was appointed yesterday, Yahoo execs were in talks with the search giant about various partnerships.

That’s presumably on hold for now, but we’ll see.

Yahoo has about nine months until the Microsoft guarantee falls off the cliff and Morse notes there is an out.

Tasty!

2:25 pm: I’ll be honest — I am getting hugely bored hearing non-news about yet another unremarkable performance from Yahoo.

I needs me some Mayer ASAP — since she is, without a doubt, a fantastic character for Yahoo’s next chapter. As has been reported, it’s correct that she is not talking to me so far, but I am sure there will be plenty of material for me to work with going forward.

The next question is on mobile, which is a “big priority” for Yahoo, says Morse. Actually, it has hardly be a priority at all, despite the fact that the kids seem to love their smartphones.

Another Alibaba question, which is in all the filings. Let me break it down: Yahoo owns less, but it’s still a good investment for the future.

2:33 pm: Did I tell you I am bored. I am at the offices of Vanity Fair magazine blogging this and I am now reading a very good book they have on the shelf here titled “Vanity Fair’s Hollywood.” Does Sophia Loren ever take a bad photo? No, she does not!

Back to Yahoo! A question if Mayer will be talking before the next earnings call.

“I honestly just don’t know,” says Morse. But she is “mindful” of how much investors want to get a good gander at her.

A question on Yahoo Japan, another endless asset sale that the company has not yet completed. “There really is no update,” says Morse, blaming a valuation gap.

What a shock!

Morse is being very polite today and I like it. He’s been through the wringer at Yahoo since he got there, including a short stint as a temporary CEO.

I hope you have been taking notes, Tim!

2:39 pm: A question on Facebook and, thankfully, on the choice of Mayer. I love when someone asks a question they have been asked not to ask.

“I don’t have a whole lot of color,” says Morse, noting her “resume speaks for itself.” It is apparently safe to say, adds Morse, that Yahoo has to be good at both tech and content.

You’re kidding! I had no idea! Thanks, polite Tim!

He also said Yahoo feels good about being on a steady footing with Facebook. Last call, the comments were about how much Yahoo was going to get Facebook to pay.

Bygones!

I am back to the shelf at Vanity Fair, which is as delightfully entertaining as this call is not. Now, I am perusing the book, “Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionaire.”

Did you know Sandra Bernhardt’s motto is: “Kiss ‘em, slap ‘em, send ‘em home.”

I am considering stealing that one as my new operating policy.

I missed the question about Yahoo’s ad consortium with AOL and Microsoft. “We’re making progress,” says Morse.

Aaaaagh. But did you also know that Katie Couric’s motto is: “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

That is definitely my motto too if Yahoo PR does not get back to me on my 26 questions from this morning (you would think I would have gotten used to this by now!).

How I wish Mayer was not in the corner right now and we were listening to her. She talks really quickly, like a supernova, so I would love to see how analysts react to it. Not today!

Did you know Keith Richards’ motto is: “I told you I was sick.”

Now that is funny.

There are no more questions, which is unusual, and Tim politely says his goodbyes and says to be in touch any old time.

Thus, I have to have a better ending for this and it comes via Donald Trump, whose motto is: “Think big and get the job done.”

And it’s a pretty good tip for Yahoo and Mayer going forward.


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