Yahoo is laying off more people in its seemingly ever-shrinking search group. In addition to previous general Yahoo layoffs, many search executives and employees have left or are being moved to Microsoft as part of the Yahoo-Bing search integration.
“Yahoo! remains focused on innovating the overall Search experience over the long-term, and the Yahoo! Search group is hard at work on some new experiences that we believe will convert Yahoo! users to Yahoo! searchers. To accomplish our new product objectives, we have decided that we need a different combination of talent and are making changes within the search group in order to more deeply invest in other areas of the group.”
Many industry observers will see this as further evidence that Yahoo is simply paying lip service to search (or continuing its exit of the market), although the official press statement says that the company will be “deeply” investing “in other areas of the [search] group.”
I’ll be chatting with Shashi Seth, Yahoo’s SVP of search products later this morning and will ask him about the cuts and “investments.” I’ll update this post with any “color” or new information I discover.
Postscript: I just got off the phone with Shashi Seth and I asked him about the job cuts and the new hiring. What he told me was that with the integration of the Bing index Yahoo didn’t need certain types of roles and skill sets any longer. He included in that category some search editorial and analytics personnel, as well as some people who worked on certain kinds of back end advertising tools that are no longer required.
In response to my question about where Yahoo was in fact hiring he added that hiring has been ongoing and that Yahoo now needs people and engineers to work on the front end and in “middleware” roles to help the company with its UI/UX, as well as to fulfill its “web of objects” mission and vision for search. An example of this is extraction of data from documents that then can be searched on (e.g., restaurant menu items).
Seth reiterated to me something he presented at the Yahoo investor day: that Yahoo intends to play in the “top 50%” of search queries. He told me that about 50% of searches involve pure “long tail” queries that are not susceptible to quick answers or shortcuts. He said that the Microsoft index is very good in this area and Yahoo’s results will greatly benefit as Bing’s back end is integrated. He then said that the remainder of queries are for “vertical” information or quick answers.
Yahoo intends to continue providing “answers” and UI enhancements to this portion of queries in an effort to differentiate it from rival Google and partner Microsoft.