Can Yahoo’s Focus on Content and Branding Keep It From Fading Into Irrelevance?

Do you Yahoo? No, you Google. Despite its best efforts Yahoo has never become a verb. As it continues its downward march into Internet oblivion, Yahoo got a double dose of bad news this week.

Neilsen reported that Yahoo has lost even more market share in search, now falling behind Bing into third place. According to Neilsen’s numbers, Google continues to dominate with 65 percent of the market, followed by Bing at 13.9 percent and Yahoo at 13.1 percent. Yahoo has lost nearly three percent of the market, losing it all to Bing, not a big surprise since inking the deal to hand over its search share.

But, wait, say the Yahoo defenders. That’s OK because the company is transforming itself into a content portal, not a search portal. In fact, last week the company showed off with an event in which, according to the Wall Street Journal, “Chief Product Officer Blake Irving laid out a three-year vision for Yahoo as an ‘innovative technology company with the largest digital media content and communications business in the world.’”

Along with those defenders comes Techcrunch’s report from an undisclosed source that Yahoo’s internal goals are to increase in the number of unique visitors from 622 million to a cool 1 billion with a projected revenue increase from $6.5 billion to $10 billion. If Techcrunch’s source is valid, those are high hopes indeed.

This attempted transformation is being driven by the arrival of Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, whose single largest contribution to Yahoo’s public perception was telling off Techcrunch Editor Michael Arrington during Techcrunch Disrupt.

Along with an extensive $100 million rebranding campaign, Yahoo is investing in editorial content and tweaking the results of its search and how its mail platform works, but lack the “wow factor” of recent rollouts by other web and tech companies. Even with its “new” features, Yahoo is having a hard time making up traction in the marketplace and isn’t leaving anyone with the impression that it’s on par with where Facebook, Twitter and Google are headed.

Said analyst Greg Sterling in the WSJ report: “Yahoo ‘needs to bring the brand back through product innovation, not marketing. They need to show up with sexy, exciting stuff to regain some of their old credibility.”

We’ve already seen MySpace become a ghost, falling from the tip of the social networking world into a back alley somewhere. Google continues to chug along, adding a productivity for its users that far outstrips Yahoo’s mail client. Why use Yahoo mail when you can use GMail, Google Docs and Calendar?

The only feature Yahoo offers that has any muscle that I hear about often is its Fantasy Sports product, but even that has to fight the ESPN beast. Yahoo doesn’t seem to know what it wants to really be but it is spending a lot of money to get there.

About Mike Koehler

Mike Koehler is the New Media Director for Schnake Turnbo Frank | PR, the largest and oldest public relations firm in Oklahoma. Mike consults with clients about the best use of tools on the Internet, Web strategy and social media policy. Mike blogs regularly at www.smirknewmedia.com and is working on his first book to be published in 2010. Mike lives in Oklahoma City with his wife and three kids.

You can find Mike on Twitter: @mkokc.

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