It was a big day at Yahoo! yesterday, with Kara Swisher breaking the news that Carol Bartz was fired as CEO (over the phone no less).
I found the firing over the phone ironic. When I was vice president at Yahoo! during the layoffs in 2009, I was requested to lay off 6 members of my team in person on the same day across three offices intwo different states. Naturally, I did as asked despite the impossible travel day it created, as I believed it was the right thing to do to have in-person conversations with people in those tough moments. Apparently Carol wasn’t given the same courtesy.
As news broke about Bartz’s ouster, the consistent chorus of people calling Yahoo! doomed or irrelevant began to ring out. Yahoo! has indeed been troubled, but I believe it can and should be saved.
Yahoo! wants to be the “premiere digital media company”, which is the right goal based on their strengths, where the world is headed, and what their competitors are likely to focus on. Let’s take a look at those strengths.
Let’s take a look at where their top US properties stand with competitors using data from Compete.com. Yes, I know Compete.com is far from perfect with it’s numbers and even trends, but there are few choices for public data analysis and the ranking should be correct.
Portal-Style Front Page
If we just compare against similar “portal” type front pages, Yahoo!’s front page is #1.
1. Yahoo! Front Page
Personalized Front Page
There aren’t many personalized portals like My Yahoo! left, but Facebook and Twitter seem like the new generation of this to compare against My Yahoo!, which still has a tremendous amount of traffic.
3. My Yahoo!
This is a gigantic category where Yahoo! crushes the competition.
1. Yahoo! News
5. Google News
Yahoo! Mail has been the leader in email for a quite some time. If anything there is a larger threat from Facebook messages, mobile texts, and other forms of communication than from direct competitors.
1. Yahoo! Mail
The big daddy of properties, Search is a primary revenue driver. While the Comscore data has Yahoo! and Bing being close and flip-flopping, Compete does have Yahoo! Search at #3.
3. Yahoo! Search
One of Yahoo!’s anchor properties, Yahoo! Finance is a traffic powerhouse. Google Finance traffic data can’t be pulled out, but it’s definitely not close to Yahoo!.
1. Yahoo! Finance
This one is tough to measure now, as Facebook’s photo data is not broken out, and mobile startup Instagram is quickly becoming a player. Twitter is also making more of a move here recently. Since it’s clear Facebook is now #1 even without the data broken out, it shakes out like this:
2. Flickr by Yahoo!
Tough to measure how Facebook and Gmail chat compare here since neither one is broken out in the Compete data. If I had to guess, I’d say Yahoo! is ahead of Gmail chat but I’m not sure what Facebook’s usage looks like.
2. Yahoo! Messenger
3. AOL Instant Messenger
Another one of Yahoo!’s outstanding gigantic properties, Yahoo! Sports is the leader in game even though ESPN calls itself “The Leader”.
1. Yahoo! Sports
3. Fox Sports
OMG is a great example of what Yahoo! can do, as OMG launched later then competitors and is now dominating them.
Like OMG, this is another newer Yahoo! property that started much later in the game but is now crushing the competition.
1. Shine by Yahoo!
The competition is really close here on the Compete data so this order could end up being wrong.
1. Google Local
2. Yahoo! Local
The Compete data has Mapquest being ahead of Google in web visitors, but with mobile factored in Google is the clear leader.
1. Google Maps
3. Yahoo! Maps
It’s a very competitive space, but Yahoo! still puts up a good fight against some heavyweights.
4. Yahoo! Travel
Quick, who’s the biggest real estate site? Answer: Yahoo!.
1. Yahoo! Real Estate
Gaming is now getting fragmented with web-based games, games on Facebook, and games on mobile. If we look at just web-based games including Zynga on Facebook, Yahoo! comes in at #3.
3. Yahoo! Games
This is one of those “kind of silent but really powerful” Yahoo! properties. How many startups would kill to have 20M users like Yahoo! Movies does?
2. Yahoo! Movies
Would you have guessed Yahoo! Music was #1 in music properties with over 18M estimated users? Me either. This is a dangerous one though as music consumption changes to become more mobile and application-based.
1. Yahoo! Music
4. AOL Music
Once again, the quiet winner you probably wouldn’t have guessed is Yahoo!.
1. Yahoo! TV
3. TV Guide
When it comes to comparison shopping engines/portals, Yahoo! comes out on top again. To be fair though, Google’s “shopping” section can’t be pulled out in Compete data, but it’s not really the same type of shopping portal. Amazon.com and eBay are also larger, but are different types of sites.
1. Yahoo! Shopping
Yahoo! outsourced Yahoo! Personals to Match.com in a move by Bartz. However, Yahoo’s Match.com subdomain is still #2 in the market:
This is harder to tell traffic on with Compete as Yahoo! has a subdomain for it but redirects it to sports.yahoo.com. Despite that, while working at Yahoo! in 2010 I know that Yahoo!’s Fantasy Football was #1 in the market, so I’ll hazard a guess that it’s it’s in the top 2 in this lucrative market.
While Quora gets all the tech industry buzz these days, it’s still tiny compared to Yahoo! Answers.
1. Yahoo! Answers
3. Askville by Amazon
It’s a long way off in traffic from YouTube, a long way….but Yahoo! comes it an #5.
5. Yahoo! Video
Yahoo! is quite a bit behind market leader Weather.com, but #2 isn’t bad.
2. Yahoo! Weather
The data isn’t broken out, but we’ll assume Facebook Groups are now getting more traffic than Yahoo! Groups.
1. Facebook Groups
2. Yahoo! Groups
3. Google Groups
Yahoo! Health has a strong showing in another very lucrative advertising category that also generates high traffic.
2. Yahoo! Health
Despite entries from all the portal companies as well as industry powerhouses like Autotrader, Edmunds, and Cars.com, Yahoo! Autos comes out on top.
1. Yahoo! Autos
While not the sexiest category these days, it still drives millions of users. Yahoo! is #2 in downloads and is very close in traffic to #1.
2. Yahoo! Downloads
Yahoo! outsourced their Greetings to AmericanGreetings.com, but their subdomain still comes out to #4.
4. Yahoo! Greetings
Comparable data is not in Compete, but Yahoo! Calendar is either #1 or only surpassed by Google Calendar for web-based calendars.
Comparable data is not in Compete, but Yahoo! is in the top 3 for web-based address book with Facebook and Google. Apple is obviously a huge player with this phone-based address book now.
It’s actually quite shocking to run through so many important categories and see that Yahoo! is a leader or one of the top companies in that space. Any of their positions alone would be an amazing startup or growing company, but doing it across so many categories is really impressive. It may not be flashy, but Yahoo! is getting the job done in a bunch of those spaces.
Additionally you can bring in other businesses here that aren’t really “consumer” facing like Yahoo! Small Business, Web Hosting, Domain Registration, Yahoo! Ad Network, Right Media Exchange, and others.
Also not covered above is how Yahoo! fares internationally in many of those properties in other countries. It’s all over the map (literally), but some of the international regions are stronger than the USA in overall dominance. Not to mention the ownership value of various Asian assets.
What makes Yahoo! vulnerable is that they are doing well in all those categories above, but primarily just from a desktop computer experience.
The Facebook Effect
Facebook has already been stealing Yahoo!’s thunder in various categories for a while now, but it remains a huge threat. Facebook doesn’t compete with Yahoo! on identical products, but does things like make a traditional front page unnecessary, or replacing email with Facebook messages and instant chats.
If or when Facebook starts making moves into running their own socially-enabled properties like “Facebook News” or “Facebook Sports”, Yahoo! may have even more trouble ahead.
Social in General
Handled above by the Facebook effect, but Yahoo! will continue to lose out to Facebook and other social applications if it doesn’t improve rapidly in this area. It’s not for a lack of trying, but Yahoo! has now essentially outsourced a lot of their social stuff to enabling Facebook and Twitter on their properties.
Mobile and Tablets
Compared to Google, Facebook, and Apple, Yahoo! is very far behind in the mobile world. It’s clear they’ve already lost as far as “utility applications” are concerned on mobile devices.
The question they need to ask is how they make Yahoo! News the default mobile news application across all mobile devices? How do they make Yahoo! Finance the default financial application? They don’t seem to be moving aggressively enough in their leading categories to become the “premiere digital media company” on mobile devices.
It’ll be interesting to see where Yahoo! goes next with their leadership and strategy. They have a lot to work with as you can see from above, and I know a lot of talented people are still there looking to make it happen.