Tough Day in Purple Chair Land

I have a soft spot for Yahoo. I have worked with the search guys over there on and off for many years. Some of my old Fast Search and Transfer alumni used to run the search over there, so it was with a little sadness (but not surprise) that I read of further job cuts in Yahoo Land. Back when they were top dog and super cool, the Dr. Seuss-style, huge purple chairs in the lobby of their Sunnyvale campus always amused me. The chairs are still there, but many of the people are gone. The latest round cuts an additional 2,000 employees and who knows if the bloodletting is done.

I was recently at a media conference and one of the panels featured various Yahoo and Yahoo related people. One of the guys was billed as the guy “in charge” at Yahoo local. I was somewhat surprised, as I didn’t think there was anybody still employed by Yahoo local. As you may know, we at Search Initiatives are all about local and local search. For several years, I have watched the Yahoo local property slowly decline. Yahoo even invited us to pitch what we would do if selected to revamp their local offerings. It was a fun thought experiment, but we didn’t get the gig. As far as I know, nobody did. I guess their vote was to build, not buy, and the rest is history.

Although Yahoo is a wounded giant, it is still a giant. It commands about 30% of the search ad market (partnered with Bing) and the local game is still very much in play. When Yahoo asked us what we would change we suggested moving to a high value Pay Per Call model for local businesses rather than the Pay Per Click approach they focus on — in effect exactly the model we and other industry leaders have followed. That I know of, there are at least a couple of million local businesses out there who are willing to pay for calls. There is nothing stopping Yahoo from stepping up and taking leadership (with us) of that space. I’ll be waiting by the phone.

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