Last year, the executive team at Yahoo! made the decision to re-organize the company with one of the central themes being the evolution of a culture from one largely organized around products, to one that is far more organized around our customers. The goal behind the re-org was to help us rationalize and consolidate duplicative products, create greater focus on key priorities, clarify strategic direction, and ultimately develop an environment where we could accelerate the speed and quality of our decision-making. We also wanted to do a better job creating value for our customers, from delighting our consumers with great product experiences to delighting advertisers and publishers by maximizing their ROI when using our products and services.
As part of the realignment, we formed the Yahoo! Network Division, which includes the majority of Yahoo!'s consumer-facing products — our Communications products such as Mail and Messenger; our Community and Social Media properties including Groups, Flickr and Bix; our Search products including Web Search and Answers; the Media properties comprising our News & Information and Entertainment business units; and our Front Doors including the Yahoo.com home page and My Yahoo!.
So, what’s the rationale behind putting all of these assets under one roof? The answer to that question lies no further than our mission statement: "To connect people to their passions, communities, and the world’s knowledge."
In this statement, we not only define our sense of purpose as a company, but also a strategic framework for the Network Division as well. Let me explain further by breaking the mission statement down into its component pieces (and bear with me…this is a bit longer than our average blog post, but it’s an important area of discussion and one we thought was worth the additional detail):
"To connect people…"
If I had to focus on one word that best sums up what we are trying to accomplish in our mission, it’s "connect." When we talk about connecting people we are specifically talking about connecting our consumers to their most essential needs, connecting our advertisers and publishers to their most valuable consumers, and connecting the dots internally to create far greater efficiencies and fully leverage the company’s strengths. Speaking of connecting dots internally, our recent product announcements regarding closing Yahoo! Photos and Yahoo! Auctions in the U.S. and Canada represent a clear indication that we have begun to do so in earnest. And it’s not just about rationalizing existing product lines — it’s also about better leveraging and integrating the powerful assets we’ve got (e.g. Flickr integration into Yahoo! Search).
"…to their passions…"
While "passions" may initially strike you as one of those feel good, corporate-speak words, it’s important to understand that there is a lot of science that goes into truly making connecting people to their passions a reality. If we are going to be successful at this endeavor, it means we’ll not only need to understand the intentions of our users, but also leverage the fundamental technologies to make this possible. Fortunately, we have spent the last few years building what is arguably the most relevant search engine on the Web (seriously…and before you say it, when was the last time you compared?) :) and have most recently leveraged our core competency in matching technologies into our new and vastly improved search engine marketing system, a.k.a. "Panama."
The key going forward will be to continue to expand these technologies to virtually every pixel we can improve on the Yahoo! Network. In other words, we want to connect the right user to the right content at the right time. If we get this right, the implications are considerable. Consider that the one-size-fits-all content featured on most web sites clicks at only a fraction of the top algorithmic results in web search. Why? Because we know exactly what you are looking for when you do a query. However, for the most part we can only do our best to anticipate what you want when you are browsing your favorite property. The goal is to close that gap, and ultimately make your content browsing experience as fundamentally relevant as your web search experience. This is a lofty ambition, and probably more vision than mission, but it’s a worthy one, and one of the highest priorities for the Network team today.
In a day and age where discussion on the Web inevitably turns to the rising influence of community and social media, connecting people to their communities may on the surface appear to be the most straightforward component of our mission statement. For the most part, we all intuitively understand the power of community and how the communities we participate in, online and offline, create value in our day-to-day lives.
While communities have and will always continue to play a central role in creating value on the Yahoo! Network (e.g. Groups, Flickr, Answers, Bix — and stay tuned for the next gen of products in this area), when we talk about connecting people to their communities, strategically we are talking about creating better user experiences not simply by knowing what you want, but also by leveraging who you know. This dynamic has traditionally manifested itself when you use products like the Yahoo! Mail address book or Yahoo! Messenger contact list. However, with our rapidly expanding number of properties facilitating connections between people in various contextual environments, an entirely new world of possibilities is introduced. In addition to developing some exciting new community products to help make this happen, we’re also building out our research ranks to include some of the most renowned social scientists in the world to help us further develop these capabilities.
"…and the world’s knowledge."
When people first hear the word "knowledge" in the context of Yahoo!, they may immediately think Yahoo! Search or Yahoo! Answers. However, consider that virtually everything we do on the Network results in finding, using, sharing or expanding information or knowledge in some way or another. Communication applications like Yahoo! Mail and Yahoo! Messenger facilitate the ability for people to connect and exchange knowledge. As described above, our community assets do the same. Our news & information properties such as News, Finance, and Sports are all about the exchange of information and knowledge, and our entertainment assets like Movies, TV, Music, and Games also facilitate the exchange of knowledge around those activities (i.e. the best shows to watch or music to listen to).
Our goal is to tie these underlying stores of knowledge together wherever and whenever it might be useful for you. In other words, we want to leverage our assets to build the most relevant, comprehensive, dynamic, and open repository of knowledge and content on the Web. One of the things we’re most excited about is the concept of "open," and all of the potential we have yet to tap by opening up some of the most trafficked pages on Yahoo.com to the highest quality publishers on the Web, regardless of their size. (Though bear in mind, the more scalable your infrastructure, the better. Our front page reaches over 40 million unique users per day — that’s a whole lot of attention to be channeling to your servers. Stay tuned for more on this soon…)
So there it is: our corporate mission as a strategic framework for the Network Division. It’s a mission and strategy that not only governs our big picture in terms of where we want to go, but also our day-to-day in terms of how we’re going to get there. As I’m sure you’d agree, at the end of the day, any strategy, no matter how good it sounds in theory, is only as valuable as its ability to be executed. With the re-org now behind us, and a clear sense of where we want to go in place, our attention is now very much focused on connecting the dots, creating value for our customers, and making this strategy a reality.
EVP Yahoo! Network Division