Will Yahoo End Up In Pieces Or Be Put Back Together?

Yahoo-logo-dismantled

As turmoil swirls around Yahoo a series of investors have made inquiries on ways to secure a major chunk. Among them -- Andreessen Horowitz backed by partners Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz and Jeff Jordan. The tech titans turned around Skype, along with private investment firm Silver Lake, before selling it to Microsoft. Other possible reported investors include Facebook and China's Alibaba.

A range of events continue to pick apart Yahoo, mostly fueled by the ousting of former CEO Carol Bartz by chairman Roy Bostock. The disruption points to the exodus by numerous executives, such as Right Media's Ramsey McGrory within the past month, a delayed international rollout of the search alliance with Microsoft, and a declining share of the U.S. display ad market that research firm eMarketer estimates could fall to 13.1% in 2011, down from 14.4% in 2010.

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Some industry executives question whether Right Media, Yahoo's demand side platform company, will go on the auction block separately from the rest of the company. Iggy Fanlo, adBrite CEO, said Right Media has languished inside Yahoo for years. Advancements of the real-time bidding platform came to a halt. "Without a full commitment of Yahoo inventory to the acquirer, it wouldn't seem like a deal worth doing," he said, adding that Yahoo let the technology and team wither away.

Don't expect a spin out of Right Media. There's no one to buy it, and they probably have "bigger fish to fry," said Dave Hendricks, LiveIntent's COO. "Yahoo is a media company and not having the ad serving technology would be problematic," he said. "They spent a lot of money for that asset, and I think they will keep it."

Right Media is not the only Yahoo division. While some marketers have had success with the Yahoo and Microsoft search alliance, others remain confused. If the search alliance is not enough to frustrate advertisers and marketers, on Wednesday the two companies added AOL to the mix, announcing plans to share remnant display ad inventory.

J.P. Morgan Analyst Doug Anmuth believes the formation of an alliance between AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo to sell remnant ad inventory highlights Google's strength in display advertising. The inventory would consist of ad units that typically go unsold by the respective company's ad sales force.

Anmuth pointed to Yahoo's previous attempts to package its own inventory with other publishers.

"In 2006, the company formed a newspaper consortium to cross-sell local and national advertising across Yahoo sites and a consortium of over 800 local newspaper Web sites," Anmuth wrote. "Though the idea appeared to provide an additional monetization channel for Yahoo, we do not believe it ever generated meaningful revenue."

A few years later, Yahoo formed relationships with WebMD and CNet, and other publishers. That didn't gain traction either.

Yahoo company executives realize they have work to do. Wayne Powers, Yahoo vice president, sales in North America, indirectly admitted in a blog post how video, mobile and social will become the company's three basic focus areas for significant investments. The blog post attempts to convince advertisers of better days to come.

Former Yahoo employees saddened by recent events point to the company's humble beginnings. As one of the oldest search engines, Yahoo began as a student hobby in February 1994, when David Filo and Jerry Yang, Ph.D. candidates in electrical engineering at Stanford University, started the project in a campus trailer as a way to keep track of their personal interests on the Internet. They began to spend too much time on their project compared with the doctoral dissertations. Eventually, the project became Yahoo.

 

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