Yahoo! CEO Bartz “We Have Never Been a Search Company”. Wrong!

The Microhoo deal is finally out of the news and Yahoo has finally happily settled in the grave built by Microsoft.

In an interview with Carol Bartz, Yahoo’s CEO, and she uttered a quote that lead to industry-wide disagreement.

When we think about Yahoo, Google, what do we think first?

Ms. Bartz places Yahoo’s position in a rather different light. “We have never been a search company,” she said. “It is, ‘I am on Yahoo. I am going to do a search.’”

What? Am I wrong or …?

Yahoo, according to Ms. Bartz, simply feeds search results for people who have grown curious while reading one of its news stories or watching a video. It doesn’t generally pop into peoples’ minds as the first place to go look for answers during the course of their day-to-day activities.

As such, Ms. Bartz said she could continue to live with the 20 percent or so share of the search market Yahoo has today. “I am a very viable number,” she said. “It is very profitable, and we would be happy all day long.”

The biggest thing for Yahoo is increasing the number of pages people consume and slapping as many display ads as possible across those pages. “My fortunes are tied to my pages,” Ms. Bartz said.

When it comes to those pages, Yahoo seems to be in a state of confusion. Its Sports section, for example, has reporters producing top-notch original material ranging from scoopy news items and blogs to long-form analysis pieces. The other parts of Yahoo tend to rely far more heavily on stories and other content from outside organizations.

According to Ms. Bartz, the majority of Yahoo’s sites will go the way of Sports. In particular, Yahoo will throw investments behind its entertainment, finance and news operations. Ms. Bartz noted that there are plenty of unemployed journalists out there to pick up.

This is, of course, a delicate dance for Yahoo. The company’s strength has been in collecting information, not producing it. As Yahoo competes more and more with its partners, they may turn their back on Yahoo’s immense page views.

In addition, Ms. Bartz will remember that Terry Semel, a longtime Warner Bros. executive, was brought in before to turn Yahoo into more of a media company. Mr. Semel’s tenure was perhaps characterized more for losing to Google than anything else.

And if Yahoo isn’t a search engine today, it’s not for a lack of trying. The company had invested billions in search technology before the recent deal that made Microsoft’s Bing its search partner.

Founded as “David and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” and created by then-Stanford students David Filo and Jerry Yang, the site was quickly renamed Yahoo as an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”

As the Internet grew, so did Yahoo’s database of Web sites, forcing the fledgling company to leave Stanford’s network and partner with Netscape for a time.

Sadly, Yahoo eventually lost its way in the search business and missed becoming either Alta Vista or Google, which sequentially replaced Yahoo as the hot place to find new places to visit online. Google still has that role.

Yahoo instead became a portal, competing with AOL in a business that has been made increasingly irrelevant by the rise of, you guessed it, the search engine. Yahoo used to help people find content. Now, Yahoo repackages other people’s content as well as creating some of its own. As a portal, Yahoo isn’t an especially good one, as I’ve said, “Yahoo is over.”

Ms. Bartz has decided to correct past mistakes by getting all of the employees on the same page and presenting a more consistent look across Yahoo’s sites. In addition, she’s trying to boost morale and get the energy of the company up again –- a task hurt by the hit Yahoo’s shares took after the Microsoft deal was announced.

“I felt bad for the employees because they think it’s a report card,” Ms. Bartz said.

That said, Ms. Bartz seems to have made quite the impression on at least one of her employees.

Yahoo should have become Google, except the portal business looked more attractive at the time.

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