The blogosphere is abuzz about the quote from Yahoo’s CFO Susan Decker to Bloomberg News (as run in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer) about Yahoo! search and Google. First, here’s her exact quote:
“We don’t think it’s reasonable to assume we’re going to gain a lot of share from Google,” Chief Financial Officer Susan Decker said in an interview. “It’s not our goal to be No. 1 in Internet search. We would be very happy to maintain our market share.”
It’s no surprise that not only are industry analysts misinterpreting this quote, but so are lots of bloggers too. Steve Rubel is probably getting the most visibility with his colorful comment that “Yahoo cedes search to Google and so do I”, but a quick glance at memeorandum shows that this is just the beginning of the misinterpretation and cloudy thinking…
Here are some headlines to consider: Yahoo quits?, Yahoo gives up?, Yahoo content to be Google’s footstool and Yahoo gives up race with Google.
As someone who has tracked the industry views on Apple Computer for years, I’m familiar with this particularly American thinking, of what I call “Win or Die.”
For well over a decade, analysts, pundits, critics and clueless twits alike have been writing about how if Apple can’t achieve the position of top selling personal computer vendor, it’s destined for a slow, lingering death and irrelevance. You’ve been reading these op-ed pieces for years too, in publications like The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and Fortune. Lots of bloggers continue to beat that staccato drumbeat of “#1 or death” too, particularly with Apple and the Macintosh.
But those of us who actually can see beyond this myopic thinking have long since realized that being a specialty vendor, differentiating from the broad world of commodity, sell-more-or-concede, is actually the best and smartest strategy of all.
That’s the Ferrari Solution: don’t sell the most, sell the best. I mean, think about it, why on Earth would Ferrari want to sell more cars than Honda or Toyota? It’d just give them distribution headaches, maintenance problems, and, most of all, dilute the brand to where it wasn’t exclusive, wasn’t a sign of success, of being above the hoi polloi.
Apple’s in the same space and has done a brilliant job of, yes, being “the computer for the rest of us” who really don’t want to spend hours each week worrying about viruses, spyware, and shoddy software but instead want to focus on what we’re trying to accomplish, be it graphics, design, architecture, photography, or print layout.
When I read Yahoo CFO Susan Decker’s comment on Yahoo’s strategic direction for its search group, I do not see anything being conceded or Yahoo giving up or being “Google’s footstool” (for goodness sake!) but rather a company that is being smart and sharing that it has a very specific strategic direction and is traveling towards that, not blindly competing to be #1 in the search space by traffic.
After all, companies like Dunn & Bradstreet aren’t upset that they’re not the search company you think of when you want to find a local pizzeria, so why is everyone thinking that Yahoo’s going to crumble and be an also-ran because it doesn’t want to be all things to all customers?
Even the inimitable Robert Scoble’s missing this one, when he says: “I really don’t care about search market share. If I did I would have bet on Alta Vista. I didn’t. I went with Google because Google had better search. Tomorrow? I guess Yahoo isn’t confident.”
I don’t think it’s a confidence issue at all. I think it’s everyone succumbing to the win or die! perspective. Yahoo doesn’t have to be #1 to be a darn successful search system and extremely useful and valuable to the Internet at large.
It’s a bit too soon to write Yahoo off, that’s for sure. Let’s watch the Yahoo Search Blog to see how they respond, though, shall we?