Yahoo CEO – Are you serious?

mazeYahoo’s CEO Carol Bartzis is tired of people spouting off about what Yahoo should be doing (or not doing) according to a recent piece in Tech Crunch, so she responds by telling us what Google should be doing. Bartzis’s  thinks that Google is on the wrong path by only being in the search business, and I’d totally agree with her if she wasn’t the one on the wrong path.

Besides totally disagreeing with her about Google, one has to wonder about this sort of advice coming from the CEO of a company that has changed their mission and strategy more times in the past decade than a club kid changes outfits.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a company diversifying, but only if there is a clear and cohesive mission and vision that dictates such a strategy.

Without a clear mission no amount of products and services will give a company clarity. In fact, it’s more detrimental to the long term viability of a company to be fragmented without a unifying thread to hold those services together.  So, what is the Yahoo mission?  The latest incarnation of their mission is probably the best one yet. Here, take a look:

Yahoo! : To connect people to their passions, communities, and the world’s knowledge.

Well done Yahoo. So your mission is as a connector.  You are  a modern day digital yenta connecting us to knowledge and our passions (I’ll read that as hobbies), and other people. Ok so they’re a search engine and social network. I get it. Much better.

While it took Yahoo a bunch of  reorganizations and I’m sure lots of meetings and drafts to come up with that mission, Google has remained consistently focused for years on their mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” Whoa, whoa, wait a minute now. Yahoo! Oh no you didn’t!

Okay, so while I’m not in the business of dispensing advice, I’m more than happy to repeat the advice of others when appropriate, so perhaps Yahoo should take the advice of Marshall McLuhan who, in the age of TV wrote:

“It is only today that industries have become aware of the various kinds of business in which they are engaged. When IBM discovered that it was not in the business of making office equipment or business machines, but that it was in the business of processing information, then it began to navigate with clear vision. “

While, Yahoo keeps changing its mission based on the latest digital trends and buzzwords (e.g. portal, content is king, user-generated content), Google has focused on  attempting to organize and make accessible the world’s information. While it may seem over ambitious, it gives Google a simple and clear focus and helps them direct their strategy to reach that mission. To put it simply,  what better way to organize the world’s information than to ensure  you have direct access by all possible means (creating, buying, merging with), products and services in which all that data flows.

I don’t know if Google’s founders read McLuhan, but their mission shows they get the point.  Google understands they are an information company not a search company, but Yahoo is not sure what kind of company they are. Yes, it’s true Yahoo might derive income from lots of different sources but what business are they in? What do they do? What is their focus, vision, mission? Or as McLuhan said:

“The General Electric Company makes a considerable portion of its profits from electric light bulbs and lighting systems. It has not yet discovered that, quite as much as A.T.&T., it is in the business of moving information.”

To take McLuhan’s examples further, IBM sold off their PC division to Lenovo because they understand that products and services are a result of their mission not the mission. Every product, every acquisition, every merger,  every service is a result of the mission not the mission.

While I’m not a mindless cheerleader for Google, as you can see from my previous posts, I have enormous respect for their cohesive misison and the resulting strategy that apparently drives their business.  Yahoo, meanwhile, seems to be caught up in this never-ending cycle of reacting to current trends and the competitive landscape rather than leading through vision and innovation.  As a result, the Yahoo mission seems to be reverse engineered from a mish-mash of their products and services indicating perhaps, in the words of McLuhan, “they don’t understand in which business they are engaged.”