Bartz: ‘Creepy’ Facebook Could Be Yahoo’s Top Competitor

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz says Facebook has a “creepy” amount of personal information about its users, and could become Yahoo’s number one competitor because of the value of that data. Her comments came about 10 days ago at the USA Today CEO Forum in Atlanta, and have just been published today on the paper’s website.

When the conversation focused on social media, Bartz had this exchange with USA Today’s David Lieberman:

Q: Who’s your biggest single competitor?

A: Facebook — not today, but they could be. If they keep going, they will have the vault of information on everybody in the world, and that’s valuable.

Q: Valuable, to the point of being scary?

A: Yes, creepy. I don’t care to find an old boyfriend. One time, just to see if they got fat and bald, but then leave me alone. But I’m old.

USA Today says the Q&A as it reads online is “edited for length and clarity,” so it’s uncertain if there’s any additional context to that part of the conversation. The wide-ranging discussion also hit on a number of other topics. Here are a few noteworthy quotes:

On Google TV:

“It is not a slam-dunk. There’s a lot of cable companies that want that business. There’s a lot of TV makers that want Internet applications. So it is pretty hard whenever there’s a new market forming to say, “Oh, that’s the leader.” It takes awhile to settle out.”

On Yahoo News vs. Google, AOL, and other news competitors:

“We not only license news feeds (for example from Reuters and the Associated Press), we also have our own editorial voice. We have human editors watching what seems to be interesting people, and feature that more prominently. So we are constantly tweaking what is delivered.

“For instance, on our front page we have a module called “Today,” which is what’s happening. Every five minutes we serve up 32,000 different variations depending on what you seem to be interested in. So it is very personal. It is engaging.

“Then we just bought a company called Associated Content: 380,000 writers, bloggers, in all the towns and cities who also contribute to this news feed. So it is a combination of what people can do and what machines can do.”

On Apple’s tight control over advertising:

“If you want to run an ad on the iPad, it has to be approved by Apple. I don’t think it is for us to say this ad isn’t pretty enough and to go through this whole back-end process of approval. I don’t think in the long run that’s going to work. Advertisers will have other options.”

Bartz later says that Yahoo serves up 10 billion ads per day across its properties.

On mobile:

“We are just neck and neck with Google for mobile installations in the U.S. We don’t have an operating system, but we have Yahoo Mail, Messenger, Finance — all those things. Mobile is huge for us, especially in emerging parts of the world where the only on-ramp to the Internet is going to be through a small screen. They are not going to have a desktop or laptop at home. But for the developed world, I don’t think you are going to let this (small) size screen be the only ramp on to the Internet.”

Bartz tap-danced around a question asking if Yahoo needs its own mobile device and/or operating system to compete against Google and Apple; she didn’t specifically say if that’s something Yahoo needs or has even considered.

On a related note, paidContent has published an infographic showing the executive-level changes at Yahoo since Bartz took over as CEO in January 2009.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Facebook | Yahoo: Business Issues | Yahoo: General | Yahoo: Mobile & Go | Yahoo: News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • T Campbell

    Aw, isn’t that cute? Yahoo thinks, or at least pretends, it’s going to be any sort of competitor to Facebook.

    Yahoo has a huge and formidable business, but it seems to me to be a legacy business. For years it’s been fighting a rear-guard action, and nothing short of a major merger or acquisition has threatened to change that. It engages its user base in an older-fashioned way than Facebook does and can’t catch up without a fundamental change, which doesn’t seem in the cards.

    Bartz seems to be playing to Yahoo’s base with her comments. “Those KIDS with their privacy violations! I don’t like it, but then, I’m old. Maybe… maybe YOU’RE feeling ‘old’ too, Yahoo user? Let’s grow old together.” Viable defensive strategy, but all it’s going to do is slow the shrinkage.

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