It comes as no real surprise that Yahoo is expected to announce layoffs of several hundred soon, while also trying to partner with Microsoft to increase traffic on Yahoo’s search engine. Why is it no surprise? Because Yahoo has become old-school, and not in the good way.
For us old enough to remember the beginning stages of the Internet for personal use – you know, back when Adam was procreating with Eve – Yahoo had some “cool” cache. Its name was different and happy, and it was leading the way in navigating this new toy.
Then it got hit by all the specialists: Google showed up, and transformed the Internet from an unwieldy tool to something we use as casually as a TV remote.
Yahoo also tried to become a portal, complete with news, email, shopping and even an attempt at social networking. But then every news organization in the world developed its own news portal – with, especially, the TV cable networks such as CNN and FOX News taking center stage – and social networking became the province of Facebook and Twitter.
So, as Yahoo goes through another re-organization under a new CEO, it’s probably asking itself, “What happened?”
Answer: They tried to become everything to everybody. In today’s high-tech world, consumers seek expertise and focus. Meaning, if you’re everything to everybody, that’s means you’re nothing. You’re the cliche: A jack-of-all-trades and master of none.
In today’s modern world, that means you’re old. We’re into specialty now, especially when it comes to technology. Remember the days when you played a different sport each season in high school? No longer. Athletes, as young as in the early teens, pick one sport and play that one sport all year round.
Focus. Speciality. That’s why Google overtook the search engine, because its brand comes from that empty-looking home page with a search bar. Although Facebook and Twitter have other components, social networking remains their face and it’s what comes to mind first when consumers think of those providers.
It’s all sad to say because I consider myself old school. Back in the day, being competent and knowledgeable about many things used to mean you were a Renaissance Man. (And, yes, I’m one of the relative few who receive alerts from Yahoo. So there you go.)
Now, that’s the old way of thinking – and it can be the death-kneel for many brands.
To succeed anymore, you must put a stake in the ground and proclaim, “This is who I am.” That kind of clarity is what’s missing from Yahoo at the moment. Until they figure out who they are – and, most importantly, who the customer is when they use Yahoo – traffic will drop and advertising dollars will be spent elsewhere. It’s time Yahoo got with it.