Commentary

Yahoo Talks Mobile, But Not Revenue

Yahoo-

Any expectations that Yahoo might disclose mobile revenue after Google last week did so for the first time -- to the tune of a $1 billion run rate -- weren't met in during the Web portal's third quarter earnings call Tuesday.

In its earnings call, Google broke out display ad revenue to boot, reporting a run rate of $2.4 billion. From Yahoo there was plenty of talk about mobile initiatives but little in the way of numbers.

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz gave run-down of new apps released on Apple and Android devices during the quarter, covering properties such as the Yahoo Mobile home page, Finance, Movies, Mail and fantasy football.

Asked by UBS analyst Brian Pitz about what the company is doing to start monetizing display on mobile, Bartz spoke in generalities, saying, mobile advertising "is a very fast-growing area for all of us off a small base, and we have exactly those kind of numbers." She emphasized mobile, whether in the form of an iPad or a smartphone or netbook, as part of a larger media buy on Yahoo.

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So advertisers are interested in optimizing display ads for connected devices, and Yahoo is working with them to try to accomplish that goal on smaller screens. With its push behind mobile apps during the quarter, Bartz indicated Yahoo now had an audience of 50 million unique visitors via apps in the U.S. "It looks to us like there is a lot of momentum," she said. "Fantasy Football, Mail and especially our new mail client that's coming out, Messenger -- we're seeing a lot of uptick on these."

What this all adds up to in terms of actual dollars is hard to say, but it's likely not anywhere near Google's $1 billion mobile revenue, generated chiefly by search. Yahoo also doesn't have an equivalent of Android or its own handsets, so it's not engaged in the smartphone race in the same way as Google, Apple or Microsoft. But it obviously wants to benefit from the wider audience that the proliferation of smartphones and other devices represent.

Yahoo's role in helping to power the new Starbucks Digital Network that formally debuted today seems another step in that direction.

But with the departure of David Ko, formerly Yahoo senior VP of audience and mobile, earlier this month to Zynga, and a report Tuesday that David Katz, Yahoo's VP for Mobile, North America was also out, the company's mobile division is currently rudderless. According to All Things Digital, Katz's exit is part of a reorganization in the aftermath of Ko leaving. When isn't Yahoo restructuring management?

Ko himself replaced then-chief of mobile Marco Boerries only early last year. And there has been more executive shuffling at lower levels of Yahoo's mobile operations in between. Perhaps when, and if, the leadership of Yahoo's mobile business is more settled, the company will have revenue figures it's ready to talk about. But that's a big "if" given the history of high executive turnover at Yahoo.

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