As everyone waits to find out how new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz plans to resuscitate the struggling Internet giant, in the meantime, the stress of watching Yahoo bungle one thing after another — such as coming within inches of a merger with Microsoft, only to blow the deal at the 11th hour — seems to have taken its toll on some otherwise perceptive stock analysts. Take Gene Munster from Piper Jaffray, for example. As described by Barron’s blogger Eric Savitz, Munster recently wrote yet another “open letter” to Bartz (man, she must be getting sick of those) in which he suggested that Yahoo buy the New York Times. And maybe Gawker Media as well. Oh yes, and Twitter too. And maybe FriendFeed.
Is this a strategy, or a laundry list? With all due respect to Munster, rattling off a bunch of names as possible acquisitions doesn’t amount to a realistic strategy for the company at this point. I get the idea — Yahoo needs quality content, and the NYT has that in spades; Yahoo needs to get bloggy, and Gawker owns that territory in numerous key market niches; and Yahoo needs to get more social, hence Twitter and FriendFeed. But isn’t this just going to spread Yahoo’s peanut butter even thinner? It’s already gotten so thin that even peanut-butter manifesto writer Brad Garlinghouse is gone. More importantly, gobbling up Twitter or the New York Times doesn’t actually make a whole heck of a lot of sense.
Take the New York Times. Yahoo already gets to aggregate content from the Times and other publications through Yahoo News, and is free to strike deals with the newspaper or any other web site to provide special content, etc. What possible benefit could buying the Times provide? It’s not as though the newspaper is spinning off boatloads of cash, or producing content that Yahoo can’t get by other means. And buying the Times could actually make it harder for Yahoo to strike deals with other content providers, which would actually put the company further behind. An acquisition makes no sense whatsoever. Sorry, Gene.
And what about Twitter and FriendFeed? Getting more social would be an excellent idea, but hasn’t Yahoo tried that already with Flickr and Delicious? Yes, indeed. And what has the company gotten out of it so far? Very little in the way of synergies, as far as I can tell, and there’s no reason to expect that Twitter and FriendFeed would add any more value. What’s Yahoo going to do — hope that it can somehow convince people to Twitter links to Yahoo content? Good luck with that. About the only thing Yahoo would be likely to do with either service is gum it all up with spammy content and lace it with ads, which would kill either one dead. Nice try, though.
I understand the desire to find some kind of magic bullet (or bullets) that could rescue Yahoo from its predicament — or even make things a little more exciting than they have been for the last couple of years, as the company has stumbled and bumbled from one pothole to another. But the reality is that there is no magic cure. Yahoo has to find a way to do what it does better, that’s all, and neither the New York Times nor Twitter would help.