Yahoo’s Bartz: Silicon Valley’s fun, growth will come

September 15, 2010

bartzAbout two years into the Carol Bartz era at Yahoo, the company’s stock has underperformed Nasdaq and investors are still waiting for the massive growth expected of Web firms. Yet in a meeting with Reuters reporters and editors, Bartz says she’s more psyched than ever to be in Silicon Valley. Here’s a few snippets from the discussion:

Why’s the tech sector so crazy these days?

It’s one of the most fun times to be in Silicon Valley. It’s like everybody tossed up their cookies and they’re just trying to grab …  Intel’s mad because Apple doesn’t use their chip. Microsoft, Apple, Google are always just trying to kill each other. Poor little Adobe got sucked in … Oracle did the deal with Hurd (HP’s ex-CEO). It’s just, like, fun.

So what’s triggering the cookie fight?

Mobility is what threw this one wide open. With a little help from Google getting too powerful for everybody’s stomach.  If you think of just last October, November you almost couldn’t have seen how wild it has gotten in 6 to 8 months …  (Then the Apple iPad hit the market) and everybody has to have one of these things now.

What about HP’s battle to buy 3Par after Hurd’s departure?

I think the HP management team wanted to show that they were still operating and “mine’s bigger than yours Michael (Dell), so I’m going to get it.”

How about Yahoo’s M&A strategy?

We were actually pretty clear on our investment strategy and it wasn’t around large investments. It’s about adding technology around the ad space, or technology for how one manages campaigns.

Would Yahoo buy AOL?

AOL?  It would just defocus us. We already  have more than they have in all those different areas.

So is Yahoo just about maximizing web page viewership?

We also care about the quality of our site. If you cared (just) about page views you’d put porn up.

Would Yahoo put porn up?

No. We really care about the quality of our site because we care about the neighborhood our advertisers are in. They come to a trusted neighborhood.

Just like they know what an offline publication stands for, they know what Yahoo stands for. We’re very careful. If something slips through we pull it down.

What about entertainment?

I talk about the four O’s sOcial, videO, lOcal and mObile,” (and likes to make fun of her Minnesota accent, apparently)

How hot is video?

Video is very important because, first of all, consumers love watching video. Advertisers are very comfortable with the video format … Our video advertising slots are always sold out. What does that tell you? Gee, I think we can get more.

How does video growth compare to the rest of Yahoo?

Video’s definitely growing faster.

What about your ad sales on the Yahoo sign-on page?

It’s actually been doing really well. The first client that came forward was Chevrolet. They had 7 times the click through rates onto their sites. They were just aghast. It irritates me but even the search terms around Chevy on Google went up.

Why didn’t you do this before now?

There was a real strong feeling, frankly, that it would detract from people trying to log in, that they’d get confused it wasn’t a log on page.

How about the speculation Yahoo wanted to buy Four Square?

We’re very, very interested in local. Local to us is the right content, the right partnerships. The newspaper consortium is important to that … It doesn’t take a Four Square to do that.

Google gets all the attenion in mobile. Where’s Yahoo?

We grew 15 pct in mobile quarter-over-quarter. We’re only a couple of million uniques behind Google in the US.

(Bartz explains uniques as “people who have Yahoo’s mobile search or Yahoo home page or Yahoo apps. That isn’t as well known as it should be.)

What’s next for Yahoo in mobile?

A lot more apps. With apps and users come ads. What we’re more interested in now is growing the uniques.

But Google’s heavily into mobile apps, too?

They don’t just get a free ride.

How about ad growth prospects?

The good news is when we talk to advertisers, it’s not like when we talked to them in the beginning of 2009, when they were just frozen. Now they’re just being very very careful. Budgets aren’t increasing. They’re just trying to find out what their media mix is and being careful about it.

What about those investors who are getting impatient for more signs of growth?

There’s no miracle coming here. We’re just running a good company and are going to run an even better company.

How long more will they stick with Yahoo?

Until they don’t. There’s always pressure. I’ve a job to do and that’s to turn this company around. It’s on its feet. I’ve got to turn it around and get everybody happy again. I don’t look over my shoulder. The board’s happy and I’m happy.

Photo: Reuters

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