Yahoo: Bartz Bashing Continues


yahoo_smallADOTAS – Oh no! Someone loosened Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz’s muzzle and she started blabbering to USA Today. Ordinary Americans — ones with a fifth-grade reading level — read that paper; they can’t be exposed to the bluntness that is Bartz. Goodness knows what expletives will crawl out of that mouth… Think of the stock price, man! And the children — think of them too.

Oh wait, the interview is taken from a conference a few weeks ago, before three high-level executives (two of them handpicked by Bartz to re-imagine the company) bailed one after another. By the way, at least two of the three departing execs moved on to sweeter positions; funny how nobody mentions Google’s recent talent turnover troubles in the same breath…

Still, let’s see what damage has been done. Pray tell, what antagonistic comments did she make this time?

  • She admits that Yahoo never came up with the social networking tool that Facebook did, and all the personal data Zuck and crew collect could cross the line from valuable to “creepy.”
  • She reiterates that Apple’s meddling in the creative process with iAds is not going to work in the long term.
  • She says that using the services of the Internet is “not like a free lunch,” so you’re going to have to put up with some “intrusive advertising.” Why does that sound so familiar?
  • She expresses humility, saying she may not be the best CEO for Yahoo, but she is good for the job.

Hmm… That’s actually refreshingly straightforward. Yet for some reason that bastion of tech journalism TechCrunch leads its story: “The love/hate relationship between Yahoo‘s CEO and the rest of the world continues.” The URL even includes “carol-bartz-trainwreck.”

Well, Bartz has a quite a snappy comeback for the tech media in general. In responding to the charge that Yahoo has no direction and the inferred commentary that Bartz has no vision for the company, she says that’s a viewpoint that exists only in New York City and within a 30-mile radius of Silicon Valley.

I come from Washington. DC, where the “beltway bubble” is infamous: both politicians and journalists see the nation and the world quite differently from the rest of the U.S. population (hence why almost all politicians run bogus “Washington outsider” campaigns). It’s not a stretch to say the tech world is the same — people with no connection to the tech mob think Yahoo is a great portal. No surprise, most of the haranguing Bartz gets is from the tech media and silicon social club.

This week alone Yahoo made the smart acquisition of dynamic creative platform Dapper and unveiled a clever new search tool. However, Fortune’s JP Mangalindan elucidates the main media and shareholder issue with Bartz: Yahoo is not an innovator — it’s not branching out into new fields like Google or Facebook.

For all those who can’t figure out what Yahoo is, it’s an Internet portal and a media company, a super-publisher that also runs an impressive advertising system. You don’t get to 10 billion impressions a day without making some good technology. It’s practical, not sexy. It’s the Honda Accord to Google’s Chevy Corvette or Facebook’s Porsche 911.

It’s also hard not to wonder if Bartz doesn’t get a lot of hell for being a tough-talking lady CEO in an industry ruled by geeky dudes. Compare Bartz’s interview in USA Today with Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s appearance on The Colbert Report or any interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

While watching the Facebook announcement the other day regarding the revamped groups, I struggled not to beat my head against the monitor every time Zuck took the mic. He talks in circles, forever rambling until he glosses over the actual subject matter. Thankfully other Facebook team leaders clarified everything he said. I don’t know how Michael Arrington keeps interviewing Zuck — I might try to asphyxiate myself while he was answering my first question.

Even the headline — “Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz: ‘Creepy’ Facebook Is Biggest Rival” — on the USA Today story is wrong. Bartz sees Facebook eventually as a competitor, and she’s right — in the long run Facebook wants to be an Internet portal, maybe not just like Yahoo but certainly bunching shoulders in the same space. She doesn’t mention Yahoo’s real competitor: AOL. One wonders if that’s because certain parties are contemplating a merger…

Both Yahoo and AOL have been reinventing themselves, attempting to figure out what defines a successful Internet portal in a world where browsers spend most of their time on Facebook. AOL has suffered some significant revenue losses while Yahoo has watched its stock suffer (though revenue has been holding steady).

All Things D’s Kara Swisher sees Oct. 19, the day Yahoo reports in earnings during a conference call after the market closes, as D-Day for Bartz. She’ll be “under a great deal of scrutiny,” investors told Swisher.

If Bartz survives, I’m sure the hissing and spitting from the tech mob will continue. If she falls on her sword, I feel bad for the next guy or gal — nothing Yahoo does will ever satisfy the tech mob.


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