Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s forgivable sin

We’ve all had a little time to breathe after the disclosure last week that Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson embellished his resume. Despite saying he received an undergraduate computer science degree, he in fact did not. And while rising through several positions of increasing responsibility for years, he allowed those vetting his suitability to believe otherwise.

So far Yahoo has said Thompson was guilty of an “inadvertent error” and that it was reviewing the matter. Third Point, the activist shareholder who revealed what had apparently been hiding in plain sight and is trying to grab spots on Yahoo’s board, is now demanding that Yahoo fire Thompson.

Is this what’s best for Yahoo? I doubt it. Is Scott Thompson what’s best for Yahoo? I don’t know. It’s too early to say. And that’s the point.

The company is on its third CEO in as many years, and he’s been on the job one day short of four months. You don’t get from here to there overnight, no matter who’s in charge, and you don’t get from here to there at all if you are constantly taking detours.

Yahoo can afford to have a guy at the helm who didn’t get a CS degree but said he did, but it can’t afford to aimlessly cast about, as it has now for nearly a decade. Unlike some CEOs, Thompson isn’t accused of sexual harassment or running a secret hedge fund within the company. There is something to be said for a bit of calm and a period of continuity.

Netflix: The New Arch-Frenemy

Albanian Army marching in Tirana's main square (Photo: Reuters)


The Albanian Army is coming everyone, watch out!

We’re only into week 1 of big media companies reporting their quarterly earnings and the most prominent name hasn’t been CBS Corp, Time Warner Inc, Comcast Corp, and Viacom — instead it’s all been about Netflix.

Pretty much on each of these companies’ conference calls, the $4 billion company from Los Gatos, California was a key reason for a boon to the bottom line by supplying  ’found money’ by digital licensing of shows that would have been gathering dust on a shelf somewhere in Hollywood. But also on the calls for several of the same companies, Netflix was seen by analysts as a threat to their future. Let’s not forget the four who reported this week have combined market value of over $160 billion.

At CBS on Tuesday, which most people see as a broadcast and billboards advertising company, the first quarter was given a nice bump from its licensing of old CBS shows like”‘Cheers” but also by newer cable shows like Showtime’s “‘Dexter” and “Sleeper Cell”. Here’s the ever ebullient CBS CEO Les Moonves telling analysts on Tuesday how great Netflix and other copycats are:

Amazon’s daily deal biz in personalization push

AmazonLocal,’s daily deal business that competes with Groupon Inc, is trying to make its offers more relevant to subscribers by asking them for more information on what they’re interested in.

AmazonLocal sent an email out on Wednesday asking subscribers to answer questions on what they like and dislike.

“You’re one click away from personalized deals,” AmazonLocal wrote in the email. 

Amazon selling refurbished Kindle Fire for $139 looks like it is trying to move a bunch of used Kindle Fire tablets. The company offered “Certified Refurbished” Fires for $139, versus a regular $169 for refurbished models, on the Gold Box daily deals page of its web site on Wednesday. New Fires go for $199.

Shoppers can buy up to five of the gadgets each, according to the web site.

“Each Certified Refurbished Kindle Fire is a pre-owned Kindle Fire that has been refurbished, tested, and is certified to look and work like new,” Amazon said. “They come with the same one-year limited warranty as a brand-new Kindle Fire.”

The offer runs through May 2 only, or until the refurbished devices run out, it added.

The irrational imitation of the online news industry

All across Europe, journalistic online startups are launching, aiming to produce and disseminate news in new ways. In our brave new world, the nimble startups of tomorrow were supposed to be overtaking the lumbering dinosaurs of yesterday online. But nearly all of these startups, even the most impressive and innovative sites, are struggling to survive because they face structural and strategic challenges that are not always recognized upfront. To succeed, European journalistic startups need to recognize these challenges, move beyond simply imitating others and find their own paths ahead.

The structural challenges for European journalistic startups have to do with the competition they face in content and advertising.

Startups are trying to establish themselves in a market for online news that is dominated by legacy media like newspapers and broadcasters. New journalistic ventures, such as Netzeitung, Rue89 and Il Post, are competing not only with other startups but also with the popular online offerings of news organizations like Spiegel, Le Monde and La Reppublica. These incumbents, and others like them, have built their digital strategy around their well-known brands and content from their existing newsrooms. They fund them with profits from their (generally declining) offline operations. Together with a handful of aggregators and portals, such legacy players dominate online news provision in most European countries.

‘Man’ leads domestic movies, ‘Avengers’ big abroad

Romantic comedy “Think Like a Man” easily beat four new films to win the U.S. and Canadian box office race for a second time while superhero movie “The Avengers” stormed into overseas theaters with record-breaking sales.

“Think Like a Man” led domestic charts with an $18.0 million total from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates compiled by Reuters on Sunday. New movies including adult comedy “The Five-Year Engagement” didn’t come close, each grabbing about $11 million or less. 

Big-budget, effects-filled “Avengers” hauled in a massive $178.4 million since Wednesday from theaters in 39 international markets, Walt Disney Co said. The 3D film from Disney’s Marvel studio set opening-weekend records in 12 territories including Mexico and Brazil and opening-day records in four countries.  

Apple and the innovation dilemma

Just how long can Apple run the table in the post-Jobs era? It was simply a matter of time before those whispers turned into a question asked out loud. George Colony, the CEO of Forrester, a research and advisory firm that has followed the company as closely as anyone, is taking a particularly dim view of Apple’s future. In a blog post that was guaranteed to spark a conversation, Colony says Apple’s days as a market leader are numbered; its “momentum will carry it for 24-48 months” and then, absent a “charismatic leader” in the Jobs mold, it will devolve from “being a great company to being a good company.”

Colony doesn’t get too specific about what this means, but we know. It’s not just about market cap, or stock price or any other shareholder metric. Colony is talking about that combination of imagination and execution pixie dust that has made Apple the most significant high-tech company of the moment, and one of the most important ever.

It’s a pretty big statement, especially since Apple is on fire: $6 billion earned on $40 billion in revenues in the most recent quarter, the iPhone selling as briskly in the rest of the world now as it did in the United States for years, 65 million iPads sold in two years, more cash than it knows what to do with, and at least one analyst speculating that it’ll be a $1,000 stock before long.

LinkedIn launches iPad app

Reaching people through mobile devices is one of LinkedIn’s key initiatives and yet, the networking site for job-seeking professionals never had a proper app for tablets.

 The number of LinkedIn members — all 150 million of them — who use mobile phones to access the site is growing at a fast clip. In Q1, LinkedIn  said that 22 percent of its traffic came from mobile devices, up from 15 percent in Q4 2011.

On Wednesday, LinkedIn finally rolled out an app for  iPads hoping to get more people to linger at the site longer.

Klout goes mobile with new app

Klout, the service that claims to measure social media “influence,” released its first mobile app on Wednesday, promising a way for social media users to leverage their online personas for real-life perks.

Klout, one of the better known startups that have sprouted from Twitter’s ecosystem, is founded upon the intriguing, but often-contested, premise that a person’s online clout could be quantified and boiled down to a single number — a number that, in an world increasingly engaged and intertwined with social media, mirrors flesh-and-blood influence.

Among other things, Klout’s complex algorithm takes into consideration the frequency and probability of re-Tweets and Facebook and Google Plus shares to assign users a score between 1 and 100. The algorithm also measures which topics a user is influential in, a feature that offers brands insight into which power users to woo, and of course, what they are saying about products.

Copious revamps social commerce service with a new twist

Pinterest has yet to provide many details about how it intends to make money from its fast-growing image-sharing social service.

But that’s not stopping others from trying to capitalize on the online service’s rich catalog of product images.

Copious, a social commerce start-up, launched a new version of its website on Monday that lets consumers buy many of the bags, shoes and other fashion accessories that get shared by Pinterest’s millions of users every day.