John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

New Looks for Aging Models: Fashion Shots from Yahoo’s Product Runway

The only worse thing than being talked about is not being talked about.” That quip fired off recently by Ironfire Capital founder and former dissident Yahoo investor Eric Jackson pretty much sums up the state of affairs at the company, which seems to be losing relevance almost as quickly as it’s losing talent. Yahoo’s share price is down 18 percent this year, hovering near its 52-week low, and it recently ceded its spot as No. 2 search engine in the United States to Microsoft’s (MSFT) Bing.

But Yahoo’s not languishing–or so it says.

At the company’s “Fall Product Runway” media event this morning, Yahoo announced plans for a slew of forthcoming updates to what it’s taken to paranoically describing as “habit-forming communications products.” Among them:

  • Yahoo Mail Beta, the latest iteration of the company’s mail service. With a cleaner UI and updated back end, it promises to be faster and easier to use. Integrated support for Twitter and Facebook will allow users to manage at least a few of their social services directly from their in-boxes. Also included: Video, photo sharing tools, a new version of Yahoo Messenger and better spam tools (Yahoo claims its mail service will have 55 percent less spam than Gmail).

  • Yahoo Search enhancements that promise “more visually compelling” news and entertainment-related searches that combine images, news articles, videos, tweets, events and ratings in search returns.

  • Trending Now lists–trending stories presented as slideshows

  • A Yahoo app for iPad designed to deliver a personalized Yahoo experience to Apple’s (APPL) tablet. Features Yahoo News, Mail, etc., as well as a handy Yahoo alarm clock.

  • Rich content integration with Twitter.
  • Customized Content Ads: “Creative formats that leverage an advertiser’s robust content and enable social sharing”–whatever that means.

Interesting updates, I suppose, when they’re finally rolled out (Yahoo EVP Blake Irving says we won’t be able to use Twitter to comment on Yahoo pages until June 2011,), but nothing really transformative. Many of them seem to me table stakes really, and to tout them before they’re even live and so soon after the debut of Google (GOOG) Instant smells a little desperate. Odd that one of Irving’s big messages today is that Yahoo is becoming faster and more innovative and will be shipping products even more quickly than it has been. None of these products are even ready.

A parting shot: Asked “What is Yahoo?” during today’s Q&A session, Irving defined the company as follows:

“Yahoo is a global series of Web experiences delivered across a variety of devices that gives people what they want. It connects advertisers to a global audience. Yahoo is all about delivering experiences to individuals that make them engage with each other. Folks always ask, Is Yahoo a search company? A content company? A communications company? In a world where people only have so much time, we’d like to help them engage with the things that matter most to them.”

That’s got to be the world’s worst elevator pitch.