Yahoo! needs to deal with the fact that it really is still a media company

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Colleen Taylor at TechCrunch, reports that Yahoo! has changed the way it describes itself in its latest 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

She writes that it’s a small change but symbolic.

A far better description of Yahoo! would be a “technology media company.” It uses media technologies to publish digital content and advertising. What’s not “media company” about that?

Technology companies develop and sell technologies, such as databases (Oracle), microprocessors (Intel), software as a service (Salesforce.com). What technology can you buy from Yahoo!?

Google is a media company and so is AOL, Facebook, Twitter, and hundreds of Silicon Valley companies, too.

Yahoo! realized it was a media company a long time ago, hiring Terry Semel as CEO in 2001, a 24-year veteran media executive, Chairman and co-CEO of Time Warner.

However, it was a big mistake because it was too early to think of itself as a media company and it led to Yahoo! falling behind in the development of key media technologies such as search.

And it gave away its media technologies for very little money such as licensing its pay-per-click IP to Google, without which it wouldn’t have had such a lucrative business.

Is Yahoo!’s change of description wrong timing yet again?

Google is a media company but it prefers to be described as a tech company because it partners with traditional media companies.

In the mid-2000s it struck deals with the New York Times and other large publishers to manage their online advertising. The NYTimes.com front page was full of Google delivered ads, often with a link, “If you’d like to advertise on this site click here” taking you to straight to Google. The NYTimes had handed over its advertising customer relations to Google – a rival media company!

If the New York Times considered Google to be a media company at the time, which it was, it would have approached such a partnership with a lot more caution.

These days the NYTimes Company and all newspaper publishers see Google as a media company and as a rival.

Even Eric Schmidt, Chairman and former CEO, often refers to Google as a media company.

Silicon Valley itself is very much a “Media Valley.”

It’s a giant virtual Gutenberg machine made up of powerful media technologies that have replaced the innovation of movable type with that of programmable type — the extraordinary ability to publish pages of complex content on-the-fly and change them in real-time — across a massive distribution network that has enabled the end-points to publish back.

It’s now a two-way Internet, a two-way media internet. Now it gets really interesting.


This article by Tom Foremski originally appeared on Silicon Valley Watche, a Burn Media publishing partner.

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