Search Biz: Yahoo CEO Duel, MSFT Reconsiders Search Brand, MSN ‘Lewd’ In China & Google Won’t Buy Newspapers

SearchBiz today rounds up some items from the last 24 hours. Most of them concern personnel moves or speculation about who might get the top spot at Yahoo. Then there’s the ongoing MicroHoo saga and whether a new CEO will restart talks with Redmond. There’s also the matter of MSN being branded a “lewd” site in China for user-generated content.

Yahoo CEO contenders: Decker vs. Bartz? CNET and AllThingsD are discussing potential Yahoo CEO appointments. AllThingsD reports that Autodesk Executive Chairperson and former CEO Carol Bartz is a strong candidate for the position, according to the usual unnamed “insiders.” The Wall Street Journal also suggests that Bartz is one of the top candidates if not the leading one.

Meanwhile, CNET says that current Yahoo number two Sue Decker is also a very strong candidate to get the job:

A number of industry players and major Yahoo investors had discounted Decker as a viable CEO candidate for the struggling Internet search pioneer, following Microsoft’s failed buyout bid of $33 a share for the company. Yahoo, which had traded at roughly $19 a share before the initial bid became public last January, closed Wednesday at $12.71 a share.

But one source familiar with the search noted: “She has always been a strong candidate.”

And at least one influential Microsoft source noted that Decker is well regarded at the software giant, even though the companies weren’t able to strike a buyout, or partial deal for just the search business.

For Yahoo, naming Decker as CEO could potentially bode well for its efforts to quickly reignite talks with Microsoft, given that an outside hire would need time to analyze the different aspects of Yahoo’s businesses before holding discussions to potentially sell off parts of the company.

MSFT: Yahoo deal a ‘thing of the past.’ If the idea behind a potential Decker appointment is a restart of the Microsoft negotiations, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaking from the CES show in Las Vegas tried to put the acquisition speculation to rest:

“You certainly shouldn’t think we’ll go back after Yahoo,” Ballmer told interviewer Brian Sullivan. We may try to do other kinds of partnerships with them, but acquisition is a thing of the past.”

While the acquisition is no longer of interest to Microsoft, this report in the Register argues that Microsoft is still quite interested in a search deal.

New brand for Live Search? The Seattle PI discusses the potential rebranding of Microsoft’s online services. This is a very long-standing issue. There’s Microsoft, Live and MSN. At one point it appeared that all the online services would migrate to Live and MSN would be killed, but that didn’t happen. The company recently trademarked Kumo but it’s not clear whether and exactly how it will be used.

I’ve had several conversations about branding and rebranding with Microsoft and the company has been considering the issue for quite some time. Here’s what Danny argued in his recent “tough love for Microsoft search” post:

Can you imagine going into a war, calling upon people to support your cause, but not knowing the name of your country? Or having a name that people simply couldn’t identify with your cause?

Make no mistake; Microsoft is in a search war with Google. It’s a serious one, with billions of dollars at stake, and it’s flying multiple flags that no one recognizes. The company spent over a decade building up the MSN brand, only to decide in late 2005 that “Live” would be its flagship brand. The failure of that brand to take off is widely recognized by many inside and outside Microsoft . . .

To this day, when I write about Live Search, I often preface with Microsoft to make it “Microsoft Live Search,” so that new readers will understand that this is the Microsoft search product. Live Search alone could be owned by anyone. Back when it was still called Windows Live Search, I was writing “Microsoft Windows Live Search.” It was absurd (and frighteningly, might be returning again).

While a new or consolidated Microsoft search brand might re-introduce people to the product or offer an opportunity to get attention, the experience is what ultimately counts.

MSN a lewd site? The Chinese government appears to think so. Apparently, community areas on the MSN China portal contain “lewd pictures” that “go against public morality or harm children’s psychological health.” No examples or definitions were provided so it’s not clear what qualifies as “lewd” in China. However MSN will be compelled to comply with the censorship request. Google has apparently already done so to a significant degree.

Microsoft grabs Yahoo Korea exec. Microsoft has hired Kim James Woo to run its South Korea operation. Woo had been in charge of Yahoo Korea and Overture Korea.

AOL makes executive changes. Back in the US, AOL has done some reorganizing and reshuffling of product responsibilities following the departure of Kevin Conroy, who was AOL’s EVP of products. The details are at paidcontent.

Google not going to buy newspaper publishers. Finally, Google’s Eric Schmidt laments the decline of newspaper publishing. But even as he expresses support and sympathy for the industry he says Google won’t be buying any newspaper publishers:

How about just buying [newspapers]?

The good news is we could purchase them. We have the cash. But I don’t think our purchasing a newspaper would solve the business problems. It would help solidify the ownership structure, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem in the business. Until we can answer that question we’re in this uncomfortable conversation.

I think the solution is tighter integration. In other words, we can do this without making an acquisition. The term I’ve been using is ‘merge without merging.’ The Web allows you to do that, where you can get the Web systems of both organizations fairly well integrated, and you don’t have to do it on exclusive basis.

If not buy, how about just pump some cash into them, the way Microsoft famously once did with Apple?

There are no current plans to do that. The necessary criteria to get us to make that decision are not currently in place.

Every so often people argue that Google should buy newspapers or print yellow pages. While there are some hypothetical benefits to those ideas, they make no sense from a financial or “cultural” perspective.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Search Biz


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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