Yahoo CEO Bartz: "We Are Not a Search Company"

carolbartzIn case you were wondering, Yahoo is not a search company. That’s the word from freshly installed Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz (whom Om has liked from the beginning), in an interview with CNBC’s Jim Goldman that will air in chunks tomorrow throughout the day. When asked about competing with Google and Microsoft in search, Bartz told Goldman: “It is no different than any software company competing against Microsoft…Just because we are on the Internet does not mean that we are a search company. We are much broader than a search company.”

That’s true. Yahoo isn’t a search company. It, like Google, is an advertising company. The two just go about it in slightly different ways. Google and Yahoo both sell advertising against their search engines. That is where a huge chunk of Google’s revenue comes from, with much of the rest coming from Google’s partner sites through the AdSense program. Yahoo, on the other hand, makes revenue not just from search, but also its numerous content platforms.

“[Google is] making a lot of money; good for them,” Bartz told Goldman, as she compared her company to her biggest competitor. “We are making a lot of money; good for us. We are serving entirely different needs.”

Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo News and others are massive successes, and Yahoo sells untold numbers of ad impressions against this content. Google, for the most part, offers its Google News and Finance services ad-free. Even the ads on Gmail are pretty unobtrusive.

Don’t be fooled, though. Google launched these sites to take on Yahoo directly. Google wants to entice users over from Yahoo’s content sites with a clean look, whizzy charts and the ever-present algorithms. It hasn’t really worked, though — Yahoo’s finance and news sites have been around since before Google existed. By a huge margin, they remain far more popular than their Google counterparts.

When talking about search, all three companies — Yahoo, Microsoft and Google — are doing one thing: selling advertising. Google has, if popularity is any measure of functionality, the best product and the most money. Yahoo and Microsoft lag far behind. But Bartz is new to Yahoo and is willing to make deals — if it’s a good fit.

When Goldman asked about the status of any talks between Microsoft and Yahoo, Bartz noted that “if somebody pays you a boatload of money and gives you great technology…[and] the right information, [a search deal] would make sense. Any deal is based on…’Does it strategically fit, do you make enough money on it and does it still serve your customers?’ Given the right deal, sure we’d do it.”

We’ll see. Search company or not, Yahoo shareholders seem to have faith in Carol Bartz. Five months into 2009, Yahoo’s stock price is up more than 22 percent.

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