Business

Yahoo down second quarter in a row, Mayer cultists be damned

Above: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

Image Credit: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

I am a Marissa Mayer fangirl. She is like Beyonce to me.

But even I know better than to mix religion with business. And Yahoo investors, who put so much faith in the CEO’s ability to turn Yahoo around, are having something of a crisis of faith as the company reports another lackluster quarter.

In terms of product, the end of 2013 was awesome. Yahoo put a lot of modern spit and polish into its most popular apps and cut a lot of product deadweight. The company also continued to hire and acquire some of the finest developers and designers in Silicon Valley and beyond in a total of 31 M&A deals. And earlier this month, we learned that Yahoo is about to have its major mobile moment, when mobile users will eclipse desktop users in number.

In terms of revenue, however, the end of 2013 was shaky. Year-over-year, revenue was down 6 percent, and income was down 8 percent. The overall warchest of cash and securities was down 17 percent.

So, where’s the big turnaround we were promised?

In the always-optimistic press release accompanying the earnings report, Mayer voiced her confidence in the “stability in the business” and Yahoo’s capability to think big, ship fast, and experiment with new tech.

“We are extremely heartened by the year-over-year traffic increase we experienced in 2013, an early sign of return on our investments and the acquisitions we’ve made,” she said.

We heard the exact. Same. Story. Just a few months ago: Mobile’s great, traffic is up, but hold your breath on the revenue.

We’re wondering when the charismatic Mayer’s leadership will pay off. Some of us around the VB newsroom feel the resurrection of Yahoo has been fully and totally botched. Others, your faithful correspondent included, think the whole process will take a lot longer than a couple of years.

Yahoo is still in the middle of a huge overhaul, with too many ongoing changes in personnel, products, revenue streams, and other assets (ahem, Alibaba) to settle into a stable, positive financial position. It may take a few more quarters before we all start seeing better numbers in these reports.

Or that could just be the Mayer cultist in me.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. There’s also Yahoo SVP Adam Cahan, who said in a recent interview with VentureBeat, “Perception is made by the experience of the products people use. Through that, we come to feel about the company. Over the past six months, that perception has changed. The headlines don’t start ‘beleaguered Yahoo’ anymore; they start with the products.”

Internally, he said, “There’s a sense of joy. People at Yahoo care about our users; that’s part of the cultural change that came with Marissa.”

Hopefully, that rainbow-hued miasma of bliss will seep over into the black-and-white reality of Yahoo’s bottom line. We want to believe, but we also want proof that the turnaround is real.


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