The Yahoo Problem
Before Marissa Mayer, Yahoo was the place great startups went to die. Flickr, Delicious, Upcoming, Fire Eagle — even GeoCities (if we want to go way back) — foundered or were shut down under Yahoo.
Mayer is hoping to change that — acquiring 10 startups since joining the company as CEO in July 2012. Most of Mayer’s acquisitions thus far have been based around talent or technology, which means it will take more time to see the impact those acquisitions have on new or existing Yahoo products. Yahoo has also invested in its existing products — from email, to Flickr to the new Yahoo Weather app for iOS — hoping to prove to users that it can change and be a place where useful apps and services still exist.
But beyond being a place that great startups go to die, Yahoo has also had to fight a reputation of being uncool. Like AOL, the company has hundreds of millions of visitors and email users — but it’s not cool. Cool people don’t use Yahoo for email — they use Gmail. Cool people don’t watch video on Yahoo — they do YouTube, Hulu or some of those Megavideo clones we’re not supposed to publicize. Cool people don’t read the news on Yahoo — they visit Mashable,Buzzfeed and Twitter.
(And to be clear, I’m generalizing here. Just because you still use your @yahoo.com email address I’m not saying you’re uncool - just your email service.)
That’s the challenge with making an acquisition of a company like Tumblr that has not only a very loyal (and very vocal user base), but a company culture that is very much associated with its greater brand.
Buying Tumblr won’t make Yahoo cool overnight and if done incorrectly, it could actually harm the image, credibility and “cool” factor Tumblr currently has in spades.
Basically: As long as Yahoo goes the way Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram did, and not Six Apart’s acquisition of LiveJournal or Yahoo’s acquisition of basically anything else it’s ever bought, we’re good.