By Jim McCarthy Sep 8, 2011 0 comments

Wrong Question, Yahoo

Do you remember when Yahoo ruled the world?

I certainly do.  I was part of a company that Yahoo bought in 1999 for almost $5 billion in stock.  A few months later, that stock was worth even more, going as high as $108 per share (split adjusted) on December 31, 1999, compared to today’s $13 or so.  The company was worth nearly half a trillion dollars and making huge, drippy troughs of money.

Now, well, what can you say?  Google ate their lunch.  It isn’t exactly the end of the world to make a billion dollars a year and be worth “only” $16 billion, but it isn’t the future Yahoo believed it had.

So yesterday’s firing of Carol Bartz didn’t surprise me.  Nor will it make any difference.  She was on a suicide mission and so will the next Yahoo CEO be UNLESS…someone comes up with a good answer to the question, “What is Yahoo and why should it exist?”

Fundamentally, that’s the question that faces every organization of every size and type.  It’s what Ries and Trout, advertising and marketing gurus of the 20th century, called “Positioning.” Have you got a “position” in the minds of the people in the marketplace?  What do you mean to them?  If the answer is “a little bit of a lot of things,” you’re probably in trouble.

So the important question is not “Who’s the next CEO of Yahoo?”  It’s “What is Yahoo?”  You can be successful there, or anywhere, without a good answer to that.

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