Live Blogging Yahoo Investor Day 2009

It’s Yahoo Investor Day, where Yahoo is briefing institutional investors and financial analysts on the company. I’m here for the morning portion, and I’ll be live blogging out of it. You can also watch the live web cast here.

Bartz Welcomes

Carol Bartz, CEO, on stage. Saying thing they have great opportunity. Lots to fix. Low return. “Today is the journey back to respect. We’re not here to wow you, but we’re here to intrigue you and earn your respect.”

What happened? Yahoo was the big shining star, then wasn’t. Wants to talk of “slice” of Yahoo that’s not search or display or clicks or CPM that but “the scale of what Yahoo is. The importance … the real intensity of what Yahoo is.”

To define what Yahoo is, they went out to talk to users around the world in 10 countries. “And they were kind of confused and said what’s Yahoo.” Said it was where they go to check in … it’s the combination of my world and the world [OK, we know they didn't say it that way." Says sure, they go to Facebook and elsewhere. "But guess what? They come home. They come home to Yahoo ... that's scale no one else has. That's diversity no one else has."

Something about advertisers. Didn't catch it because apparently you can't video what's being live webcast. As someone who came over to tell me. So couldn't hear her.

"We can run a more complex business because we're so huge." "We are the largest communications engine in the world." [first time I've heard "communications engine" phrase and like it. Finally, she's defining Yahoo in a way that would fit in a Twitter box.

So Yahoo has scale. And fallen flat on its face at times, "Sure." But they learn by that.

"Carol who's your competition? Who should we compare you to." Sport analysts look at ESPN; entertainment folks look at TMZ. Apparently no one compares them to Google or she's not saying. "We make up every morning with passion to beat every one of them ... and we usually do .. we're not a search company. we're not a display company. we're a broadbased internet [something, communication?] company … that is awesome.”

Yahoo also had diversity. And now she’s lining up three “labs” speaker to come. They’re amazing.

Yahoo has great editorial, human brains, combine great human editorial with great machine learning. So that makes us unique.

Sales force also makes them unique. Yahoo a “high touch” company.

The last thing that makes us unique is that we have fallen, and we really want to get back up. Up on our tippy toes … if you haven’t had good times and bad times, you don’t know what you’re doing. We’ve had good times and bad times. We prefer the good times [chuckles in room]” Going to get back to that.

Not here to make big promises. We’re here to impress you … about how we innovate, our scale.

Thanks everyone and brings up Ari Balogh, Yahoo CTO.


Brands matter. Large brands are being found to be more important between 2003 to 2009. There’s a pie chart to prove this. Yahoo’s a big brand, so they have opportunity.

Another chart showing how time online has grown. I don’t dare take a picture of it, though. Email up 18% since 2003, search up 12%, video up 63%.

A bar chart of mobile internet users since 2008. 490 million worldwide to 596 now to 1,453 million projected in 2010 from comScore and eMarketer. No mention if they’ll all be using Android, but the Kindle gets a call out.

Other big trend is how traditional silos are changing. Talks about Yahoo Buzz now. Place to find stuff. You can search. Is Twitter real time search [with tone that no, it's not]. YouTube, video or search? The point is that it’s really about personal social utility. I think we’re being told don’t worry about all those real time search deals. See, we kind of have it in Yahoo Buzz.

Now Yahoo’s [OK, Yahoo!'s] Value Proposition. There’s a flow chart, but we’re on to a page on Buzz about the Chupacabra monster being caught? That was an awesome X Files. C’mon you remember it. Kids, the X Files was a TV show with Hank Moody from Californication and Scully, who like lives in England now. But I digress…

A Yahoo editor ssaw this story and decided to put it on the home page because it was unique enough. And it takes a small village to make that sort of thing happen [which seems a village too much]. “The results were impressive.” 15 million people read it, 30,000 votes, 2,000 comments, 700,000 searches. “This drove engagement downstream in Yahoo.” [and did the site pay for the placement, I wonder? Because if so, it drove some direct revenue. But it might have been a pure editorial pick].

So Yahoo does this day after day, content across multiple platforms. No other company can combine that great technology with the right voice. Yahoo creates “well lit contexts” for advertisers to connect with their audience.

Yahoo learns more and more about how people behave and how they can sell different segments to advertisers.

Yahoo execution strategy starts with deep personal relevance. Generates “insights at scale” that improve experience with people and advertiser.

Now Tapan Bhat, Senior Vice President, Integrated Consumer Experiences, comes to talk about the new Yahoo  home page.

Yahoo’s Home Page

345 million visitors worldwide and other big numbers I didn’t catch. Wanted new home page to give best of web to grow audience, giving search. The whole my world and the world thing.

Talking about how as entered counties, they build different ones and ended up with 44 different pages based on 30 different coding [or close to that]. Point is, lots of cost, especially as something always tested on the home page, so has to be implemented after a reaction in market A, then add to market B could take a year to fully roll out and improve the user experience everywhere. “And that’s dumb.”

Talking “page yield” concept, what’s value of the traffic a page sends, how much people come back, testing how to improve page yield. Again, takes another year to roll something that works in one market out further. New platform means an immediate worldwide rollout. Great value there.

End 2010, 33 different code bases will be down to 1.

My Favorites section of home page now My Applications, as part of first version. And other changes, and people we’re overwhelmed. Not emotional reaction Yahoo wanted. But turns out, the color wasn’t what people expected. So lighted the blue. “You’d be surprised. Immediately we saw a change in the metrics.”

Created the My Mailboxes area that can bring everything into one place. People weren’t using it, though. People wanted the mail boxes accessible through Yahoo but separate (Yahoo Mail separate from AOL Mail separate from Gmail, not them all flowing into one box).

Talking about common inbox, elevating messages from those most important in your lives (which Gina Trapani wants, so either Yahoo hasn’t convinced her or need to do more outreach!).

“Is the home page done? No, the home page is never done .. when we get to a threshold, it’s what’s next?”

Showing a hover preview as you scrolled down your apps, say you hover over your Flickr link on the home page, see a preview. People complained about “pop-ups.” Turns out people read by navigating with their mice. They move the mouse over to text to help them read. So if you put an overlay that shows up, “disconcerting for them.” So changed the delay between when you hover over a link and get an overlay from 150 milliseconds to 450 millisecond and had a big impact.

Search! “The biggest driver of page yield is search.” Search queries monetize at a high rate. Navigation and search is a core need. So tweaked with the search box. Made the button said “web search.” Made the button bigger and the search box bigger. “We sat people down, and they said, ‘Where’s search’?” [But uh oh, they'll find it much easier over at Google and Bing].

Turns out highlight web search box also highlighted other things [didn't catch them, maybe the other search verticles like Images and Video].

Looked at page width on how drove search. We came to this realization that less is more. When you have less on the page, the things that are left matter more. So home page, went to a “short” home page. But people expected search to be a “fundamental” part of what they do online. So redesigned search page.

Trying to have a more relevant experience there. Talking about Yahoo’s new filters (see also here) and how you can search and then get to places like Hulu (and now you can get to Google!)

How’s home page going? 9% increase in page views, 20% increase in time spent. What’s causing this? Ability to add applications from any site on the web and featured content. [Yahoo's got an app for that. Well, a place for you to park your app. Oh, I've got it. The new slogan. Yahoo: Your iPhone For the Web].

Yahoo’s got a content optimization engine that gets it to the “right user and the right time” [man, I hate any catchprase that talks about right blah at the right whatever. Like doing the right thing is a given, not a selling point. Doing more than right, that's a selling point].

Speaking of selling, came up with way to sell ads in the overlays you get when you click on something in your favorites. Also sells applications as something people can add to their favorites.

Bryan Lamkin now comes up.

Bryan manages the applications group. Apps drive engagement. Mail up compared to MSN or Gmail. 100 billion messages received in Yahoo Mail per month. 81+ billion instant messages sent each month. 4+ billion photos uploaded to Flickr. Yahoo Answers has 30 million question and answers posted each month [we'll sometimes the answers don't really answer, but still, Yahoo Answers has lots of goodness there]. Yahoo Groups has 120 million members.

Lots of handset / mobile growth. So bringing mail experience to more phones. Mail and messaging are number one apps people want. Flickr app now one of the most popular social apps on iPhone [and took Yahoo long enough to roll it out]. Many who have messenger on their phones never used it on the desktop [looking for ways to save on text messaging costs in a down economy, eh?].

Talking of cutting spam in inboxes. Need people have for someone to do trusted filtering. “We deliver more photos via mail in a week than get posted on Facebook in a month”

Talking about smart inbox that elevates messages from those you care about. [Precisely what tech blogger Gina Trapani wants. So Yahoo hasn't convinced her or needs to do more outreach!].

Lots on how you can do things like view your photos in mail, interact with Yahoo Groups, watch your Netflix download in mail. [Mail, your desktop for the world!].

Yahoo Mail represents 84% of Yahoo’s logged in users. And logged in users in general far more engaged on Yahoo.

James Pitaro now up.

Media Business

James telling story about how he didn’t wear a tie to meet the NBA commissioner with Carol. She told him, “where’s your tie.” He’s like Yahoo doesn’t roll that way. Met the commissioner who said, “where’s your tie?” He thought the was being Punked. Point? See Yahoo’s learning [he's wearing a tie on stage].

What’s Yahoo Media? News, Sports, Finances, Games — these properties are those identified as core to users and so core to Yahoo.

Strategy is to grow the products and engagement by delivering premium content by innovative and insightful buzzword buzzword. And something about relevancy.

Sept, had 80 million unique users, #1 in lots of verticals areas. “When Life Happens, People Come To Yahoo.” text on slide behind him.

News hits, people come to Yahoo. Both breaking news and Yahoo Finance up as, well, people’s finances are down. The down economy ironically has generated biggest audience ever for a financial site. Michael Jackson’s death, well, let’s say Yahoo did well in page views by it.

Search used to figure out what content is needed.

Talks about the guy who caught a baseball and gave it to his daughter who threw it back by mistake [it was really sweet]. Build a blog around it. More traffic.

Yahoo also has original news content. So other news organization take them seriously [though oddly don't seem to mind that Yahoo then competes with them, I guess].

They produce their own video. [and i'm having serious connectivity issues, so i won't be keeping up for a bit, sorry] Yahoo’s not going to make sitcoms [phew]

Publishers should look at Yahoo not as a competitor but a partner. Can drive traffic to them. Rising tide, boats go up.

Want exclusives. Get exclusives movie clips for free, which he says is “amazing” but they get lots of traffic. Same with sports clips from leagues.

They”ll never have it all, so they have to be open and link out. Artist pages, you can create your own experience and linked to whatever want. Since launched, engagement and view up. Despite being open. [um, maybe you're also promoting your pages for directly? and being open by linking out by making the users themselves have to do it? let's not go overboard on how giving Yahoo is there. And side point, lots of talk about licensing. Those licenses, which is something Google doesn't do because it doesn't use content so extensively, are still what help keep lots of media companies loving Yahoo and hating Google].

Dunkin Donuts partnered to do a mornign sports minutes. Fantasy Football Nation helped bring sports scores for free to Yahoo’s mobile app.

And it’s break time. When we come back …. Search!

Rinse & Repeat / Listen & Learn

Break is over. Had trouble because Carol Bartz was standing in front of my chair in the audience. So I said Carol, get the hell out of my way. And she told me to f-off with a wink. No, no, silly fools. I waited until she left. But that would have been funny. Or maybe I’m a bit tired. You know, the day started pretty early.

Ari is back and talking about scale, iteration, getting feedback. And I’m feeling all buzzwordy, despite liking Ari from earlier (he’s new to Yahoo). How about rinse & repeat? Feedback & Iteration? No, Rinse & Repeat. Or Listen & Learn. OK, maybe I shouldn’t be in charge of catchphrases.

Anyway, Yahoo does lots of “bucket tests” that can involve millions of people. “That generates an amazing amount of data for us. And we learn.”

What’s a petabyte of data [one quadrillon bytes]? What’s that feel like [I don't know, but it sounds terrible, like a pedophile]. Anyway, they’ve got lots of data. And big believers in the cloud. In fact, they were into the cloud before it became a current fad topic [IE Google, we were in the cloud before you, so stop yapping like you're the cloud makers. See, I say these unsaid things. Sometimes I even say them correctly].

Running down the home page, talking about load balancing of apps. Content optimization, studying what works on home page and what to promote. Churning search data to know what popular searches to highlight. Ad optimization [can they optimize that annoying Progressive Direct woman and her ad off the home page?]

“Cloud computing is not some big sexy thing we’re trying to sell out there … it’s how we do business.”

“We bring science, and we move science forward” to the changes they make. “Computational advertising” is bringing science of trends to it.


Now we’ve got Prabhakar Raghavan who heads Yahoo Research.

Search is a virtuous cycle. How users use search to get across the Yahoo network and what do they do to get back to Yahoo search. And how does the underlying technology play.

“We’ve gotten awfully good to develop search technology just for search.” But how can it be used to enhance user experience elsewhere, such as on the home page.

Talking about the 10 blue links experience [kaching! more money for former Ask CEO Jim Lanzone who never gets credited for popularizing this term].

Users want more than that. He contends people don’t want to search. “People don’t get home and say let me run some searches.” They want to figure out where to eat dinner, to find an apartment, accomplish other tasks. But search paradigm forces people away from act of doing things to having to do research.

Looking now at Brett Favre on Yahoo, showing a smart box with incomprehensive football stats to me [because I'm a football moron -- if you love football, you probably love this]. In fact, it’s showing the exact stuff like next game, injury status and other stuff people typically search for. “It’s the kind of the thing in the past that the user would have to go to many places to get … but here it is in one place, on Yahoo.”And good choice of query. Bing and Google have many smart boxes with direct answers on some topics, but nothing for this particular query.

Web of pages versus web of things, he says, and has illustration showing how Yahoo extracted all this information from pages (some licensed; the box doesn’t say source. In fact, the box really draws from Yahoo Sports rather than from the open web of content, as best I can tell).

We have to move away from a web of pages. Crawling the web, that’s like a commodity. Have to lift above that. Which is kind of true but also on target for the overall message that Yahoo doesn’t really need its own expensive search tech but instead can lease from Microsoft.

Looking at current query smart box for Madonna. Now looking at a future [one that still has Madonna, I guess]

It looks nice. The entire page has things like Yahoo News results, video stuff at the top. “no blue links” Bank of America page. Shows latest news at the top, quote results in the middle, blog matches, local results. [and this is all good. but it's also risky, because you might guess wrong. that's main reason folk haven't made this type of deep dive so far. "this isn't your father's search experience. This is the type of thing we have to get really good to deliver in the future.

Content comes from the open web but also licensed [not said, see, we have premium content Google won't have because they don't license. And they can also tell good content within Yahoo's own network based on activity [but worrisome, because you really don't want them doing what Lycos used to do, where you could never escape Lycos when doing a search.]

Showing ideas on integrating instant messaging. Showing how you can maybe email about going to a movie and having results show up next to your email where you can copy movie times over. Which would be handy, I suppose — but I’m pretty sure Bing’s been doing that for about six months now. So it’s not a huge driver.

Wish I had screenshots of some of the mockups. But then, they’re also mockups for now. Let’s get them out there, see how they do.

Testing Testing Testing

Now Yahoo economist Preston McAfree up talking about algorithms and content optimization. Figuring out based on demographic of visitors what they want to see on the Yahoo home page.

This also helped editors get better in learning what stories feed what groups. That they don’t have stories that target particular users. So virtuous cycle — jokes every speaker today required to use that phrase — but does. Says growing recognition that as web gets bigger, editors play an important role. Algorithms are easily gained. If done purely like that, people will design to fool that. And human learning.

Digg, the quitessential place algo is used, he says, has started to use human editors. Surprised he didn’t say Google because that’s sure who this felt aimed at

Talking how putting a second ad below the first search ad at top of results increases clicks on first ad, doesn’t decrease it. Big surprise to them. This type of rigorous experimentation have helped them learn. Works until you have more than four ads, then clicks go down. So next time you complain about all those ads at the top of Yahoo? Hey, they’re paying the bills. Actually, doesn’t talk about what all those ads at the top of the page do in terms of overall relevancy, clicks on the natural listings.

Missing some now, sorry, because the wireless is going flakey again. And my usually dependable Verizon card isn’t always getting a good signal.

Joy of Yahoo is that they get huge samples to get statistically significant stuff.

Virtual works and “real world” becoming one and the same. Virtual world can influence your purchasing in the real world weeks later.

50 years after printing press was invented, most of the influence yet to be felt. Novels, billboards, newspapers — way forward in the future. As was much technology. “I believe the internet will have at least as large an effect on society … as the printing press .. and like the printing press … almost all those inventions and discoveries lie in the future.”


Ari’s back, stressing that we should see how much talent and vision that Yahoo has now. And now he’s talking about how, in fact, that Yahoo is an “innovation engine.”

Again references of investing in cloud not because its sexy but helps with business.

Goal is to get all products to a cycle time of weeks [IE, hey investors, look at how quickly we'll be able to churn knowledge of what users want into delivering that content, along with ads. We're gonna be unmatched! We're alread unmatched! Which, by the way, for a content company may well be true].

And Carol’s on stage. Congrats her product people for presentations. “If anyone goes away from this and says is Yahoo a technology company? Then we’ve missed.”

Says nothing shown is promises with exception of those search mocks. One more presentation before BlackBerry break “Although you don’t need it, because you’re already doing it.” Laughs all around.

Keith Nilssoon coming up exec VP for developing countries.


Only 11.5% of ads are international today (IE, outside the North America). Didn’t catch if that’s online ads overall or just for Yahoo.

75% of Yahoo users come from international (IE, outside the North America. I mean there’s a slide that shows a pie that’s part international and part North America, as if North America isn’t part of the international community. But I know, I know, I get what they mean).

They’ve had a decentralized team with poor technology sharing so you’d get all those source code version and product inconsistencies “that effected our brand, our engagement with users and ultimately our ability to monetize.”

With work on local, became top cricket site in India. In Singapore (I think) surpass news sites like CNN & BBC.

Talk about doing some ads deals. Not covering what a mess it is that to buy paid search in various countries, you have to open separate accounts for each of them (at Google, one account can target the world). But that’ll get fixed with the Bing-Yahoo deal, so let’s not dwell on it.

Emerging markets only 2.5% of ad spend is online right now. “The battle for these emerging markets is happening today.” Companies that get in will be able to drive growth for some time.

So Back To Basic strategy. Give stuff on PCs and phones. Improve communication tools, email and IM. Global home page with local content. Know the markets are there. They’ll come online.

Keys to win? Mobile. 4X times more mobile users than internet users in emerging markets. In India, it’s 8X. So focusing on lightweight mobile friendly content. Partnering with internet cafes.

And we’re done. And, I’ve got to sadly depart the event. It continues through the afternoon with a focus on ad strategy and marketplaces and a financial overview. You can watch live later today here.

Overall, good job, Yahoo. The presentations do stress what a leading company you are (as I’ve said you are, see Yahoo The Failure: Myth Versus Reality). Let’s see if the analysts will move past the focus on “so what about search” that still seems to grip them at these types of presentations.

See also related discussion and articles on Techmeme.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Features: Analysis | Top News | Yahoo: Business Issues


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • thomashawk

    Today is the beginning of a journey back to respect? The stock market obviously doesn’t think so. YHOO’s stock is down 2.5% this morning. If Yahoo wants my respect they can start by not destroying my data — especially without warning. More hot air BS from Carol Bartz.

  • Sean Carlos

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