May 27, 2009
A Chat with Yahoo's Carol Bartz
WSJ's Kara Swisher interviews Yahoo's CEO and president Carol Bartz on the D7 stage in San Diego today. Is Yahoo a media or technology company? Carol shares the history with the audience of how she got to Yahoo and what motivated her to say yes, I'm on board.
When Yahoo execs first approached her late last fall, Carol wasn't interested at first but after several conversations with them, she not only realized Yahoo's potential but also thought that "it would be a lot of fun."
"It was a management issue," she said. In addition to Yahoo needing some structure, she talks about what's important for Yahoo today, such as really great video, social and community. On Google as a competitor, she says "they don't have the reach we have, we're different companies with very different positioning.
In Asia, they like color; we want to be more personal and custom for people. We're the company that people come to get informed, not just in search...with us, you also get a very local feel. We're not a competitor to Facebook or Twitter....we all provide different functions for people."
Advertising comes up as a topic as does the economy from a larger sense and for Yahoo. Carol says with a laugh, "isn't down 15 the new flat?” Carol picks up the WSJ paper at her feet and shows us a full page ad on the back page. She says “advertising is very important for companies; they still need the kind of presence and emotion in front of their key people and Yahoo does that exceptionally well."
Emotion and motion are her buzz words. "A really great place to buy advertising is where you can really show emotion and motion, such as the Yahoo sports section for example. Because of technology, the online advertising space has promised a lot of flexibility. With flexibility, you also need some very complex procedures.”
As for dealing with the perception that Yahoo has lost it and is behind, Carol just moves on and doesn't get caught up in the past. She keeps it simple - “just do a good job and talk about it."
For example, everyone out there has said that Yahoo has lost the youth, but in the 18-24 age category, they have a 76% reach. She adds, "everyone just doesn’t go to Facebook. We have half the mobile users in the states and mobile users are the kids. We have to continue to appeal to people who come to us. Step-by-step, people will see that Yahoo is back.”
Other players have taken the route of a number two, bringing on an internet visionary to re-establish a brand or relaunch one. She doesn’t want a number two however because having one muddles the waters as to who is actually in charge. Loved her energy - strong, confident and not afraid to remind us twice that's 60...."people call me Carol60," she says. I hope I'm that confident about publicly throwing my age out there when I turn 60. Way to go.
She also reminds the audience that Yahoo still has a lot of really smart people including an amazing research group, once again, moving the conversation away from Yahoo falling behind and being a number two to Google, Facebook and others. Her stats back it up and frankly, as she points out....it's not just about search, particularly for other cultures.
Back to demonstrating that age equals wisdom and experience, she says with confidence, "those in the audience who have a little age on you will appreciate this. What's interesting is that once you ask a lot of questions, things happen.
Her job is to ask questions and keep asking questions because doing that unleashing a lot of power with people: "'Is that the best that you can do? Will that excite the customer? Does it really have to work that way?' It doesn’t have to be complex, but what you expect, they respect.”
On Carol's management style, Carol says she's fair but tough. "There are definitely people out there who are still alive who worked for me.” It's publicly known that Carol has a four year contract, but she says she'll stick around for at least that long if not longer.
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