Posted by: Rob Hof on October 23, 2007
If you’re expecting Yahoo! to make a bid for a piece of Facebook, the Internet’s hottest property, you might be disappointed, if Yahoo CEO and Chief Yahoo Jerry Yang’s comments this morning are any indication. In one of the few (maybe the first) public appearances since he took over the top job, Yang told a small conference of ad executives and publishers put on by its Right Media ad exchange, “Yahoo can’t be Facebook tomorrow, and we don’t want to be Facebook. We want to go our own way.”
Yang, who added that he had “spent some time” with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “and I’m very old compared to Mark,” said Yahoo generally is trying to focus on the assets it already has. “We have a lot of things we can do under our own noses,” he said. Yahoo, he said, isn’t “trying to replicate what’s being done on other sites. I think that’s not Yahoo’s sweet spot.” But he said Yahoo does have social engagement on services such as Yahoo Answers and plans to do more of that.
Of course, all that doesn’t mean Yahoo, which is nearing the end of the 100-day period Yang said in July to set Yahoo on a new path, won’t end up bidding for a piece of Facebook, even after it made a failing bid for the whole company for $1 billion or more last year. But Yang’s stance was a tacit admission, perhaps, that Yahoo doesn’t have the capital of rivals such as Microsoft and Google, which are believed to be the main contestants.
Yang also said Yahoo is in the midst of a transformation not just in its business but in its culture. He likened the shift to the one Yahoo made from startup to established media-oriented business.
“We’re in that transformation again,” Yang said in his usual understated way. “There’s a change in how advertising is sold, but also how media is created. That’s something that I think is changing the culture again.” That sounds like a pretty clear repudiation of the Terry Semel era, and you can see that in the departures of ad execs, most recently Cammie Dunaway. But Yang didn’t go much further than his comments during the earnings conference call.
Yang conceded that Yahoo needs to freshen its brand. “We have a lot of work to do there,” he said.