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Yahoo reveals own flaws in leaked memo

Yahoo too eager to be "everything to everyone"

Industry observers agree with the tenets of a scathing Yahoo internal memo that calls for a major reorganisation at a time when many say the web portal has lost its edge and trails competitors large and small.

Yahoo must stop spreading a thin layer of "peanut butter" across myriad opportunities and instead focus on key areas, improve upper-management accountability, and reorganise, including a head-count reduction of up to 20 percent, wrote Brad Garlinghouse, Yahoo's senior vice president of communications and communities.

"The basic idea is very much on the mark, and I'd expect Yahoo would try to respond and become more focused," says financial analyst Clayton Moran, a senior vice president at Stanford Group. However, he cautions that sharpening its focus will not be easy, given the portal's current structure.

The confidential memo, which the Wall Street Journal obtained and posted on its website, says Yahoo lacks "a focused, cohesive vision" that has made it "reactive" and eager to be "everything to everyone". By "reactive", Garlinghouse may have been referring to how Yahoo has seen nimble startups such as MySpace, later acquired by News Corp, and YouTube, recently snapped up by Google, become leaders in areas like social networking and online video sharing. Meanwhile, Yahoo continues to trail Google in internet search.

"We agree with the memo's point that Yahoo needs to be more focused and differentiate itself, and build a brand in certain categories, as opposed to being one portal for all categories," Moran says, adding that Yahoo should identify the next hot internet trend and build a leadership position in it.

For Gartner analyst Allen Weiner, Yahoo has become a victim of its own success. By nailing the all-in-one web portal model in the 1990s, it became the dominant player in that market, but now it must adapt to the changing landscape. "Yahoo is by no means out of the game, but the time is now to execute on a more tightly focused vision. That's what's missing. Garlinghouse is right in saying there are way too many people doing way too many things," Weiner says.

Yahoo remains the world's most popular website, with 480.6 million unique visitors in October, according to comScore Networks, but it has disappointed Wall Street with its financial performance in recent quarters.

It has been seen as proactive in acquiring social-media startups such as the photo-sharing site Flickr and the social-bookmarking pioneer Del.icio.us, two companies Garlinghouse uses as examples of overlapping services that Yahoo should consider consolidating. In addition to Flickr, the company has a similar service called Yahoo Photos, while Yahoo's MyWeb is identical in focus to Del.icio.us.

"We need to get the discussion going; change is needed and it is needed soon. We can be a stronger and faster company," Garlinghouse wrote.


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