Marissa Speaks! CEO Mayer Lays Out Where Yahoo Needs To Go

Marissa Mayer

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (Photo: Wikipedia)

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

It’s a quarter that probably doesn’t matter much, but Yahoo eked out a small rise in profits on slightly higher sales in its third quarter.

It’s the first full quarter since CEO Marissa Mayer joined the company, and while investors are more concerned about the future, so far they like what they see in the last quarter. Shares are rising about 3% in after-hours trading following a decline of less than 1% today, to $15.77 a share.

Yahoo’s third-quarter revenues rose 2% to $1.09 billion, earning a 35-cent profit per share. Operating income came in at $150 million. Wall Street analysts were expecting net revenues of $1.08 billion, operating income of $180 million, and GAAP earnings per share of 26 cents. Including a onetime gain from the sale of shares of China’s Alibaba, Yahoo’s EPS was $2.64.

Those figures are minus the costs of acquiring traffic from website partners. Gross revenues fell 1% to $1.202 billion, a touch below analysts’ $1.206 billion estimate.

In particular, display ad revenue, Yahoo’s mainstay business, came in flat from a year ago at $452 million, but search ad revenues via its multi-year deal with Microsoft were better than expected, up 11% to $414 million.

And we’re underway on the analyst call with Mayer:

Mayer says she’s thrilled to be hear, naturally. She says she has been having a lot of fun. Why did I come to Yahoo? This job is tailor-made for me. Search, mobile, ads, home page, etc.–all things I built my career on.

She’ll talk about priorities and vision–great! First she addresses the people problem–that is, all the ones who have been leaving in droves for years. She says she has instituted new goals, metrics, etc. for people. True cultural change can’t be bought. The vast majority of what we’ve done hasn’t cost much, she says. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

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Facebook’s New Gift Service: Nice, But Not Yet An E-Commerce Game Changer

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Just in time for prime gift-giving holidays like Friday’s World Rabies Day (or if you prefer, Ask A Stupid Question Day), Facebook today launched a social gift service. It’s rolling out to only a select few for now.

I must be one of them, because I was able to send something to my wife to try it out. But in its current form, I doubt I’m going to use it much.

This isn’t the 2.0 version of the Facebook Gifts virtual-gift service that the company shut down two years ago, by the way. In fact, the new Gifts is built upon, and run by, the folks at Karma, the gift-giving service Facebook acquired in May.

It actually looks pretty good. And while I have ordered precisely one gift that obviously has not yet been delivered, so I can’t judge the entire gift-giving process, it worked quite smoothly. I clicked on my wife’s Timeline, clicked the gift button, and off I went to order her some caramels. She can even pick her own flavor–that’s pretty cool.

In this case, I obviously know her address, so one advantage of Facebook Gifts–not having to know or ask for someone’s address–is moot in my case. What’s more, I didn’t get an automatic reminder I might get if it were her birthday, so that bit of friction elimination wasn’t a factor for me either. But it’s fast and easy to send gifts to friends, and that’s great–not just for consumers, but for Facebook, which can use a service that brings in revenues not dependent upon its brand of advertising that many large marketers are still doubtful about.

So what isn’t great, at least for me?

* A lot of the most prominent gifts are pretty vanilla–teddy bears, spa appointments, flowers, cupcakes. Maybe they’re fine products. Maybe they’re the sort of thing most people give their friends. But for a service with a tagline “real friends, real gifts,” too many of these products seem just too impersonal. Products, especially gifts, are not necessarily fungible, and all the less so for close friends for whom you’re supposed to be getting something special. And if they’re not close friends–and let’s be honest, most people don’t have several hundred close friends–I probably won’t be sending them many gifts, from Facebook or anywhere else. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Facebook To Start Charging Businesses To Run Offers

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

After launching Offers several months ago, Facebook now is switching the retail and local merchant deals service into money-making mode.

The No. 1 social network, under pressure to prove that it can juice revenue growth to justify its $50 billion-plus valuation, said today that it will require merchants to buy at least $5 worth of ads in order for their offers to appear in  the newsfeeds of their target audiences and their friends. The amount businesses are required to pay for these ads, specifically Page Post ads, will vary depending on the size of their Facebook pages.

Facebook also has added several new features to Offers. For one, they’re available worldwide to all Pages with more than 400 fans. Also, merchants can add a bar code to an Offer so they can track results more easily, as well as potentially run Offers on their e-commerce sites.

Facebook says the changes, in particular the requirement that merchants spend money, should produce Offers that consumers view as higher-quality and more relevant because businesses will be incented to make those offers better if they’re paying for them. The changes also position Offers more squarely against incumbents Groupon and LivingSocial.

Facebook isn’t providing much in the way of numbers on how Offers are doing except for one example: It says the ARIA resort in Las Vegas booked more than 1,500 nights, producing a return of five times its investment from running Offers.

Although many of the new ad and commerce initiatives Facebook has been rolling out no doubt were planned well before its May initial public offering, the company has introduced a flurry of new ad formats lately. Facebook’s share price had fallen by half from the IPO, thanks to concerns by investors about whether its ads are catching on fast enough, especially on mobile devices.

Benchmark VC Matt Cohler: Mobile Ads Will Be Even Better Than Web Ads

Image representing Matt Cohler as depicted in ...

Image by Facebook via CrunchBase

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Despite rising doubts about whether mobile advertising will ever amount to much, Benchmark Capital partner Matt Cohler says he’s more jazzed than ever about the prospects.

In an interview with TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this morning in San Francisco, the former vice president of product management at Facebook said he has made zero investments this year, though he wasn’t entirely clear why except to say he made more than the usual number last year. But he said he’s looking actively for opportunities in “mobile marketplaces,” as well as products and services that use the smartphone as a “remote control for your life.” Here’s what else he had to say, in edited form:

Q: You haven’t made any investments lately. Why?

A: I haven’t made any investments this year. Last year I made more than a typical venture investor would.

It wasn’t a single specific decision. We’re at an interesting moment in time where aspects of various platforms are starting to shift. But I’ll do it if the time is right.

Q: Do you regret not making some investments?

A: I’m sure I passed on some things that will probably be successful.

Q: You criticized Groupon awhile ago when it was hot. That looks pretty smart two years later. But you have invested in a deals site in Brazil.

A: I think daily deals are a good idea. Any ad people view as content is a good ad, and that’s true for daily-deal ads too. But I’m not sure it’s smart to build a company around that one thing. Groupon has some interesting assets. The question is what can it do with them? …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

How To Advertise Without Really Advertising On Mobile Devices

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

As more and more of us access online content and services via smartphones and tablets, it’s becoming apparent that advertising that works on the Web viewed on desktop and laptop computers just won’t work as well–or at all–on mobile devices. Just look at Facebook’s stock price, sitting at half its IPO level partly because investors can’t figure out how or even if the company can make money from advertising on mobile devices.

Indeed, many people in marketing are wondering if advertising is even the best way to market on mobile devices, where screen real estate is tiny and people view traditional ads as an interruption. The advent of truly mobile computing, says MediaPost columnist Steve Smith, may allow us to rethink the fundamentals of marketing.

What might work better than banners on mobile devices? A panel at MediaPost’s Mobile Insider Summit today in Lake Tahoe, streamed online, took at crack at it, and panelists had some pretty interesting answers. On the panel were moderator Anna Bager, VP and general manager of the Interactive Advertising Bureau‘s Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence; Lars Albright, cofounder and CEO of mobile engagement company SessionMBrent Hieggelke, chief marketing officer at Urban Airship, a mobile message company for apps; Jon Vlassopulos, CEO of mobile entertainment studio/agency skyrockit; and Brian Wong, founder and CEO of mobile rewards network Kiip. Here’s what they had to say:

Bager says this is the “non-banner” panel. The banner is not dead, she says, but we need to see an evolution of banners and how we advertise on different screens.

Q: How is a mobile user different from a TV, radio or Internet user?

Hieggelke: Mobile devices are much more personal. They’re never beyond an arm’s length from people.

Wong: The person is no different. The usage is a lot more intimate. The smaller screen is seen (by marketers) as an impediment, which is frustrating.

Q: How can you use mobile devices differently from other channels?

Vlassopulos: We hope the differences will wash away. If mobile can be at the beginning of the idea channel, then the other ideas and creative will flow.

Albright: Too much marketing feels random on mobile.

Wong: One of the most exciting things we’re seeing is going beyond trying to spur actions. Tapping into streams of existing behavior has a lot more promise.

Vlassopulos: The notion of interruptive advertising in theory could go away and eventually will go away. If you start to think of advertising as content, and social media has helped here, then people might see it as something they like.

Wong: When you have an intimate relationship with someone, you don’t want to mess it up by constantly yelling at them. You can do that (intimate relationship) with mobile.

Albright: New formats such as rewards and opportunities to engage work better than banners. About 90% of people opt in and engage with these new formats, vs. 90% finding them annoying.

Wong: You need to let people maintain the activity they’re already engaged in. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

How Retailers Can Benefit From Consumer ‘Showrooming’

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Showrooming, the practice of checking out products in a physical store and then buying them online, is a rising concern among retailers as smartphones and other mobile devices become ubiquitous. Various apps make it easy to scan a barcode to compare prices and buy a product cheaper online.

I’ve somewhat skeptical of the impact this has on retailers, in part because of my own anecdotal experience. Even more than I showroom, I research a product online–often at Amazon and other online retailers presumed to be the key culprits in showrooming–and then buy a product in a physical store because I need it now or simply want to touch a range of products, not just look at photos of them. In other words, it works both ways.

In any case, some of the most savvy brand managers are making the case that physical retailers can actually benefit from consumer behaviors that lead to showrooming, leveraging them into a marketing and advertising opportunity, or at least employ ways to head it off–without draconian techniques that may do more harm than good. Today at MediaPost’s Mobile Insider Summit at Lake Tahoe, livestreamed online, a panel offered insights into how marketers can do just that.

On the panel were moderator Carla Paschke, director of mobile innovation for marketing agency EngaugeMike Bloxham, executive director of the research firm Media Behavior InstituteHans Fredericks, VP for mobile business development for researcher comScore; Sloane Kelley, director of interactive strategy for ad agency BFG Communications; and Alexis Rask, VP and general manager of brand partnerships for retail shopping app Shopkick. Here’s what they had to say:

Q: How do each of you view the opportunities with mobile?

Bloxham: Mobile is the first umbilical media we’ve ever had. It’s deeply personal. One thing that’s really important to understand … is mobile use in the full context of their lives, other media. Mobile and TV are inextricably linked, but so are other media. We can’t look at mobile in a vacuum. People use their mobile devices to inform their thinking before, during, and after purchasing.

The idea that retailers should suppress showrooming is delusional. That ship has already sailed.

Fredericks: Folks’ usage of smartphones vs. tablets vs. laptops is different. Folks are using that PC during the course of the day. The smartphone is fairly steady during waking hours, because it’s very personal. Tablets show very pronounced evening-hours use. By and large, it is more of a home use device.

Kelley: Brands that get hip to this early can really rise above the rest.

Rask: We see two main trends. One is what to do about the in-store experience. What doesn’t get talked about enough is that arc from the couch to the store. At Shopkick, about two-thirds of our usage is couch mode. People are planning their shopping trip. They’re basically deciding: Am I going to make a left out of the driveway or a right out of the driveway?

Bloxham: TV dominates by far in the home in terms of share of mind. A lot of people also use another screen. That’s actually the first screen, not the second as we often call it. Radio dominates in the car, and there’s an opportunity to drive people to a coupon on their mobile device, like what they’re going to eat for lunch.

Rask: Mobile is the only medium where you can map a full path to purchase. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Why Investors Love Yelp Even As They Hate Other Social Stocks

Image representing Yelp as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Unlike those other two little social media companies whose disappointing second-quarter reports last week knocked their shares to all-time lows, Yelp today wowed investors with better-than-expected second-quarter earnings and outlook for the rest of the year. After falling almost 6% today to $18.82, shares in the local business reviews site have rocketed up in after-hours trading by 14%.

Needless to say, a good quarter and outlook both help, but there’s more behind investors’ enthusiasm about Yelp versus Facebook and Zynga. They perceive some key positive fundamentals, too:

* Reviews of local businesses present a clear, understandable opportunity for advertising, and local advertising is a nut that no one online has yet cracked the way the Yellow Pages did in phone books. Yelp’s reviews provide a prime place for this advertising to appear. Local advertising rose 89% in the quarter. Meantime, fairly or not, both investors and advertisers still aren’t sure about Facebook’s and Zynga’s business models.

* Yelp has network effects in its favor, since the more reviews it gets (up 54% from a year ago, to 30 million), the more businesses are likely to create Yelp pages and advertise, in a self-reinforcing cycle. Active local business accounts rose 113% from a year ago, to 32,000. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

LIVE: Facebook Shares Plunge On Disappointing Q2 Earnings

English: Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO of Fac...

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Facebook managed to hit the second-quarter earnings numbers investors had expected, but that wasn’t nearly good enough as shares plunged in after-hours trading.

The social network earned a non-GAAP 12-cent profit, on target with expectations, on revenues of $1.18 billion, the latter up 32% and a tad above estimates.

Ad revenue was up 28%, to $992 million, well above analysts’ forecasts, though still below the first quarter’s growth rate. Facebook suffered a net loss of $157 million, or 8 cents a share, largely because of accounting for employee stock plans post-IPO.

Shares rose as much as 6% in extended trading initially, but then quickly fell back almost 11%. That’s probably at least partly because Facebook didn’t offer a forecast, at least ahead of the conference call. They fell more than 8% at the market close today. They now sit at an all-time low of just under $25. That’s 37% below the $38 IPO price.

A quick take from Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry: “Overhyped and underdelivered.”

Here’s what CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives had to say about the quarter in the company’s first earnings conference call: …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

What Google Veteran Marissa Mayer Can Do As Yahoo’s New CEO

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

In a surprise move widely viewed as a coup, struggling Yahoo has just appointed Marissa Mayer, a highly visible longtime executive at Google, to be its new chief executive. The appointment, initially announced through a New York Times story, now has been announced officially.

Mayer, who for years ran Google’s search products after joining as employee No. 20 13 years ago, more recently had moved to head its local business efforts. But last year, Jeff Huber was appointed senior VP of local and commerce, seemingly a management level above Mayer, though Google tried to say the move wasn’t a demotion.

Mayer, 37, wasn’t mentioned as a possible Yahoo CEO successor to Scott Thompson, ousted in May after revelations about a falsified resume. Instead, it was becoming more likely that interim CEO Ross Levinsohn would step up to the permanent post, if any CEO job at Yahoo, which has run through multiple CEOs in recent years, can be said to be permanent. On the other hand, delays in the decision indicated the board wasn’t going with the seemingly easy choice.

In an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times’ Dealbook column, Mayer said that despite “an amazing time at Google” for the last 13 years, the decision to take the top spot at Yahoo was “relatively easy” because it’s “one of the best brands on the Internet.”

The job will be a big challenge for Mayer, as it would be for anyone, because Yahoo has been losing ground on virtually every measure, with sales flat or down for years. What’s more, there has been a steady exodus of talent as Yahoo changed direction and leadership multiple times in recent years and laid off thousands of workers.

Mayer faces an additional challenge because she has never run a company, let alone a large one that’s essentially fighting for its life vs. runaway competitors such as Google, Facebook, and even Twitter. Even more important, perhaps, though she was apparently moved over to Google’s local efforts to revive them, she hasn’t faced a true turnaround situation before. She could face a skeptical reception from investors, analysts, and especially Yahoo employees, who have seen two other outsider CEOs, Thompson and Carol Bartz, depart without making any headway. …

On paper, a charismatic product chief from the company largely responsible for Yahoo’s decline as an online advertising powerhouse looks like just what the Web pioneer needs. But her success now will depend not on what she has done in the past at the world’s most successful Internet company but what she can do next at the least successful one.

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Don’t Kid Yourself–Project Glass Will Produce An Advertising Bonanza For Google

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

One of the first questions about Project Glass, the augmented-reality glasses that Google debuted in fine style this week with a skydiving stunt in San Francisco, was whether we’d see ads plastered on the tiny screen in front of our faces.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who has been championed this project to create a new kind of wearable computer, couldn’t have made his intentions clearer: No plans for ads. That’s despite the helpful video above that one wag created to show Google just how ads might work on Glass.

But make no mistake: While I think that, like the driverless car, Project Glass is cool and groundbreaking enough that Brin and the company for now simply want to see where it goes, Google’s advertising business could be a big beneficiary. And maybe not too long after they hit the streets next year for software developers and the year after that for consumers. Here’s how:

* Google will now know what you’re likely to want next–right here, right now. Already, smartphones are providing Google and others the ability to know where you are and serve you ads from nearby businesses. But potentially with Glass devices, Google will also be able to see and analyze not just where you are but what you’re looking at. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

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