Yahoo = Data. Bartz Leaves, Fingers Point, and the (Misguided) Advice Begins

In the flurry of analysis that has followed the inevitable departure of Carol Bartz from Yahoo, most of the pundits cited Bartz’s lack of media experience as the ultimate nail in her coffin. The prevailing sentiment is that Yahoo is a “media company” and needs a “media person” at the helm in order to appeal to advertisers and “right the ship”.

This would be a great analysis – if it was 2006.

The online media landscape has changed so rapidly in the last few years, that even those knee-deep in the business don’t get the extent to which data and data enabling technologies have altered the display landscape. Merely calling for a new “media centric” head of Yahoo misses out on the key fundamental which is going on in the sector – that advertising decisions are increasingly being driven by data-fed, machine-learning-driven technologies. Media “brands” still remain important, but are rapidly ceding ground to performance focused display solutions. Analysts outside of the space have missed the boat on this concept and their cries of “hire a media guy!” are the equivalent of saying we need someone who took Econ 101 to get the country out of the recession. It’s a part of, but not even close to, the full solution.

Yahoo needs a data guy (or gal) to run the show. Yahoo is a massive data machine, which, next to Google, arguably captures more data than anyone else on the planet. If Bartz had one glaring miss during her short tenure, it was failing to see the data goldmine Yahoo was sitting on, and leveraging already outstanding in-house tools (RightMedia (!)) to take advantage of this. The company certainly has the technical chops, reach and resources to build a data juggernaut.

There is still time to change course, for sure. But the new captain needs to be more than media. They need to be a seasoned “data skipper” as well.

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