MediaFile

from Summit Notebook:

Yahoo cedes search game to Google, for now

(Updated with more quotes)

If you're losing the game, time to change the playing field. Yahoo is counting on exactly that.

Ari Balogh, Yahoo's chief technology officer and product development czar, would be among the first to admit that Google reigns supreme in the search space.

"Search the way we know it, with 10 blue links, Google has clearly won that game. Saying anything other than that is just not stating the fact," he told the Reuters Global Technology Summit.

But Balogh says that doesn't mean Yahoo is giving up. Inviting comparisons to the automobile industry, now infamous for bankruptcy, ballooning debt and clunky design, Balogh says innovation in search is only just beginning, and it's too early to declare a winner yet. Ford and its Model T was once the pre-eminent mass-consumer vehicle, but today the once mighty Detroit giant -- the only one of the surviving Big Three that doesn't appear to be flirting with corporate failure -- has to fend off the likes of Toyota and Hyundai.

What's important to understand though is this really is like the auto industry in 1910....At that time, in 1915 or 1920, it sure looked like it was going to be Ford.

Microsoft’s big man on campus

Steve Ballmer knows how to pack a house.

Stanford University’s Memorial Hall was filled to its almost 2,000 capacity on Wednesday, as the voluble Microsoft CEO took the stage.

For the MBAs and engineering students who showed up, the event was a chance to get inspiration from the chief of one of the world’s most powerful corporations (and from someone who dropped out of Stanford Business School to join Microsoft). The press in attendance was mainly interested in comments Ballmer might make about Yahoo.

Indeed, with Microsoft and Yahoo reportedly in talks about a search partnership, speculation has risen in the blogosphere that Ballmer and Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz would have a sit-down during his swing through the Bay Area.

AOL’s Tim Armstrong’s more worried about Main St than Wall St

AOL’s recently appointed chief executive, Tim Armstrong, has only been in place for three weeks but Wall Street is waiting impatiently for his next move. He’s started to shake up the ad team. Investors are focused on when parent company Time Warner will spin off the Internet unit, which has lost favor with Wall Street, advertisers and users alike.

Armstrong, gave his first interview since starting on April 1 to Ad Age Editor Jonah Bloom at the 4A’s advertising conference in San Francisco. Though he has declined doing interviews since he joined, AOL’s communications people said Armstrong was keeping a commitment he’d made while he still at Google.

The three-part interview can be seen at Ad Age here. The fireside chat covered topics like AOL’s branding, AOL’s undervalued ad space, and how Armstrong had to leave Google by the tradesman’s entrance on his last day.

Hulu breaks into top 3 US video sites

Hulu continues its rapid ascent up the video charts, cracking the top three online video sites in the U.S. for the first time in March.

Some 380 million videos were viewed on Hulu.com, up 14.3 percent from February, according to market research firm comScore.

That allowed the NBC Universal and News Corp joint venture to steal the No.3 spot from Yahoo, whose total number of videos viewed in March actually declined by roughly 5 percent from February. Hulu held a 2.6 percent share of the 14.5 billion videos viewed in the U.S. last month.

Microsoft glams up MSN home page

Microsoft is trying out a series of new home pages for its MSN web portal in an effort to drum up some new — and likely younger — readers to attract advertisers.

The first experiment, launching today, is an entertainment-themed home page, promising news, gossip and videos on all manner of celebrities, in much the same way that many rivals do.

Microsoft’s money-losing online business is hoping to capitalize on the 84 percent of Internet users it says visit entertainment-related sites, building on the 70 million or so people it says already visit the MSN site for entertainment content.

What does Wall Street think of Yahoo the morning after?

The reaction to Yahoo’s earnings in the stock market this morning was relatively positive. Shares rose 2 percent right off the bat, but we’ll see what happens as the day rolls on. Meanwhile, here are what some Wall Streeters had to say about the quarter in various research reports.

Signal Hill Capital Group: While all of Yahoo’s business segments declined, display was by far the hardest hit.  Display ad sales fell 27% sequentially and 13% YoY to $371 million, as premium inventory is either not selling out, or is selling at very depressed CPM’s.  Yahoo’s search business declined less, but is hardly a bright spot.  Search revenue dropped 9% sequentially, compared with Google’s 4% sequential decline.

Collins Stewart: Given how bad display and search ad trends were during the March quarter, we believe the earning was not bad. CEO Bartz is clearly bringing fresh perspective, sound cost management, and portfolio optimization approach, which we believe will start yielding positive results. We continue to believe that Microsoft-Yahoo search deal is very likely and silence by CEO Bartz during the earnings call suggested to us that something is brewing.

Yahoo’s Bartz drops the F-bomb

The most notable incident in Yahoo’s first-quarter earnings conference call Tuesday came in the closing minutes.

That’s when CEO Carol Bartz hit a crowd of analysts with an F-bomb, instantly livening up a call which had until then focused on the company’s inline financial results.

Bartz, who has already earned a reputation as a no-nonsense leader with a blunt communications style, let the expletive fly while describing how her recent restructuring efforts will improve the inefficiencies that have long plagued Yahoo.

Google still king of search, Microsoft grows faster

Google remains the undisputed leader in U.S. Internet searches, but Microsoft can claim it is the fastest-growing, according to the latest figures from digital tally-keeper comScore.

Google claimed 63.7 percent of “core” U.S. internet searches in March, not counting mapping, directory or video sites like YouTube. That is up 0.4 percent from February.

Meanwhile, Yahoo and Microsoft, which are still umming and ahhing about combining their internet search efforts in some way, traded some gains and losses.

Yahoo planning more job cuts

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz is planning a new round of job cuts according to the reports as the company continues to cope with the aftermath of a downturn in online advertsing sales.

The New York Times and Reuters, citing several people with knowledge of the plans, said the layoffs could affect several hundred employees and may be announced as early as Tuesday when Yahoo reports its first-quarter earnings.

The cuts would be the first since Bartz joined the company as CEO in January.

Yahoo, which spent most of 2008 in a series of off-on merger/partnership talks with Microsoft, has already had two rounds of job cuts in the last year or so. It let go 1,000 staffers in early 2008 and cut another 1,400 at the end of last year.

iTunes cuts/raises prices: Teens poised to shrug

With little (or no) fanfare, Apple’s iTunes opened its doors to a new pricing scheme, and song-based packages that the recording industry hopes will jazz up music sales.  Good luck.

Apple unveiled a three-tier price scheme – 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29. Since opening in 2003 all songs in the iTunes store have been priced at 99 cents.

So what sells at what price? A little scouring this morning yielded this comparison: