Yesterday, like many news outlets, we saw a leaked slide that suggested that Yahoo might be closing Delicious. We didn’t publish until we had a statement from Yahoo. That statement clarified nothing. So it’s galling to have Yahoo today acting like the press got it all wrong.
Yahoo “Disappointed” Over “Little Context”
On the Delicious Blog today, Yahoo writes:
Many of you have read the news stories about Delicious that began appearing yesterday. We’re genuinely sorry to have these stories appear with so little context for our loyal users….
We can only imagine how upsetting the news coverage over the past 24 hours has been to many of you. Speaking for our team, we were very disappointed by the way that this appeared in the press. We’ll let you know more as things develop.
Yahoo Itself Gave No Context
Well, my goodness! A story started going around that Yahoo might be closing Delicious. Several news outlets, including Search Engine Land, asked Yahoo if this was true. What were we told? This:
Part of our organizational streamlining involves cutting our investment in underperforming or off-strategy products to put better focus on our core strengths and fund new innovation in the next year and beyond. We continuously evaluate and prioritize our portfolio of products and services, and do plan to shut down some products in the coming months such as Yahoo! Buzz, our Traffic APIs, and others. We will communicate specific plans when appropriate.
See anything about Delicious there? Nope. Not a word. Nothing like, “We plan to sell it to someone else” or “No, we’re not going to close it” or any of that context that Yahoo is now whining that the press somehow failed to provide.
Time To Threaten, But No Time To Clarify
Maybe Yahoo didn’t have enough time to react as it should have. Well, the news hit Twitter at 10:29am, according to the time stamp that Google reports:
About 45 minutes later, Yahoo’s Chief Product Officer Blake Irving stepped in, as the retweeting and discussion kicked off on Twitter. Did he provide any context, which in turn would have almost certainly been retweeted and perhaps calmed the nerves of loyal Delicious users?
Nope. Instead, all Irving did was harp about the leak and threaten to fire the leaker:
Irving’s since tweeted exactly once since then, about an hour ago, to complain again about leak and to suggest it got things wrong needlessly:
Reason leaks suck? They’re rarely right. This wrong one caused a shit storm. This has been the plan for months: http://yhoo.it/hrirji
What, Exactly, Was Wrong?
Let’s dissect that. The leak suggested that Delicious would be a “sunset” product, which implied it could be closed or perhaps sold to a new company. In fact, that’s exactly what I wrote in my story about the leak yesterday, having to work without any clarification from Yahoo:
But it’s a terrible mistake to have let the news leak out this way. I think it’s just going to create doubt among those loyal users about the future of their bookmarks, what do they do next and whether it’ll be closed permanently, closed to new users or — hopefully — shepherded to a new company that will maintain it.
Others wrote similar summaries. So what exactly was “wrong” other than — of course — Yahoo making a mess of things?
Moreover, if this has been “the plan for months,” then Yahoo could have said everything it put out in its blog post today yesterday, when the news broke. Instead of crying about a lack of context. It could have provided that context itself, when it was most needed. It failed to do so.
As a result, Yahoo — not the press — generated all this worry that it’s now apologizing to Delicious users about.
When Asked Specifically, No Comment
Let me go back to our own questions to Yahoo. We saw the news making the rounds. We emailed Yahoo about the slide and whether Yahoo was closing the “sunset” properties. We did this at 11:29am Pacific Time.
Now to be clear, we would have run the story even if we hadn’t had the Yahoo response. Often, big companies are slow to respond to rumors — or just don’t at all. As a media outlet, you try to weigh up how likely a rumor seems to be. If you do go with one, you try to provide the best context you can around it.
As it happened, we got a response shortly before we posted our story. That response came in at 12:13pm — about 45 minutes later after we asked. We got the statement I quoted at the top of this story.
The statement said nothing about Delicious. So, I went back at 12:28pm with a follow-up question. Was Delicious part of the shutdown plans?
At 12:40pm, I got back this response:
We’re not commenting on Delicious specifically at this point.
That’s two different ways Yahoo failed to get “context” out about Delicious — both through Irving’s tweet and through its formal public relations channels.
Nice Job, Yahoo — You Devalued Delicious
Here’s some unsolicited advice for Irving. If you’re the chief product officer — and you’re going to tweet — then the next time you see something going around about one of your products that you think is incorrect, say so. Otherwise, stay off the channel. Certainly don’t break in to complain after the fact that everything was wrong when you and your company failed to communicate properly.
I’m with Mike Arrington over at TechCrunch about this. Yahoo just seems in disarray, as he wrote earlier today. This is yet another sign of that. Moreover, this disarray has massively devalued a company asset that Yahoo now hopes to sell.
Consider this snapshot of the most popular items being shared on Delicious today:
Multiple items explaining how to get out of Delicious are currently popular on Delicious. Our own 10 Alternatives To Delicious.com Bookmarking story was at the top of the list, and it has been our most read story here at Search Engine Land for nearly a day now.
By the time Yahoo gets around to selling off Delicious, there might be few people left actually using it. That’s all due to Yahoo’s own ineptness, in assuming product news wouldn’t leak and in not being prepared in case of such a leak to communicate clearly that the service’s near term future wasn’t in doubt.