The Incredible Shrinking Yahoo, but 100 Percent More Show Biz in Q4 Presentation!
Well, Yahoo may have had a pretty lackluster performance in the fourth quarter, but CEO Marissa Mayer still knows how to put on a great show for Wall Street.
With her sidekick, the adorkably-grimacing CFO Ken Goldman, she added another character in her video presentation for investors. Some guy named Mike, who works for Yahoo Finance, and, more importantly, whose hair was flawless (and may rival former Yahoo exec Ross Levinsohn, whom I had dubbed “The Hair”).
(It’s actually well-regarded Yahoo Finance columnist Michael Santoli. I wonder how he really feels about pulling this unfortunate very public corporate duty — I just hope he did not have to wrestle David Pogue for it.)
In any case, Mayer needs all the jazz-hands possible, after turning in yet another quarter of revenue decline and estimates that next quarter will be more of the same.
That is why she opened its Q4 show with a lot of hedge-y phrases like “foundation for growth” and “stable momentum with some modest acceleration.”
But Mayer, ever the can-do-even-if-she-didn’t-this-quarter CEO, soon was off and running with her litany of wows: Katie Couric! Video! Online magazines! At least search did not suck!
And, of course, mobile. Also, mobile. By the way: Mobile.
She also noted that traffic was up, due to “great products.” Truth.
Also, 40 percent of hires were engineers. Truth.
Mayer also went back to her patented “chain-reaction” metaphor, which will now apparently be leading to revenue growth in 2014. “We’re confident that our efforts around people, products and traffic are the right prerequisites to position us for revenue growth,” she said. Truthiness!
Now onto Goldman, who is wearing more purple than anyone but the bunch of grapes from that Fruit of the Loom commercial should dare. Still, he’s so Grumpy Cat, I like it anyway.
This is the part where Goldman repeats what I already read in all the Yahoo docs, so I usually pop out for a donut break. But his purple shirt and Boston accent are so soothing, I am hypnotized.
Not dazed enough to know that earnings in equity interests were one of the thing that kept this not-so-impressive quarter from being totes depressing.
Goldman could also not escape the obvious revenue decline, which he tried to anyway. He kind of had no choice. He smartly focused on search, which was up 11 percent, when traffic acquisition costs were excluded. But while paid click growth was up (yay), prices dropped (not so yay).
Yahoo has a lot of cash, according to Goldman. And now, with more coming from its 24 percent stake in China’s Alibaba Group, which is set to go public this year. It’s a decade-old investment that is singlehandedly keeping Yahoo shares soaring, besides Goldman’s purple shirt.
Back to Mayer, who calls 2013 a “year of investment.” Hedge-tastic!
She then moves on to the vision thing part of show, declaring that mobile, social, video and native will be the areas of growth.
Mayer sprinkles in “growth” several more times, somehow slipping in the worrisome fact that mobile monetization is still too negligible to note at Yahoo. “In the context of the larger business, our mobile revenue is still not material, but the growth trend is very promising,” she says.
Not at Facebook or Google, but whatevs!
“This is not just about user growth, but revenue growth too,” she says, hedge complete. Yes! Exactly — it is like I am channeling my thoughts to her through the computer screen.
I wonder if I can get her to say: I love the new Re/code! Probably not, but I have hopes too, ya know!
Hair dude Mike is back, who is handling the questions from analysts, for reasons I do not grok, but I will go with it.
The first question is about the Q1 estimates that are, well, not great.
Goldman was expecting this! He should have been, given it is a giant mess dropped amid the mess. He rambles on about expenses and ends with “lower revenue.” Bingo phrase.
Mayer was asked about what was the organizing factor of her dozens of small acquisitions. Some are talent-based, some are strategery and some are building blocks, like Tumblr.
It sounds like it makes sense, since Mayer says it so definitely, but I still don’t get it.
Now someone asks about the big elephant in the room: The firing of COO Henrique De Castro, who also got a big payout for his time at Yahoo.
Mayer looks like she has just eaten a lemon once the screen returns to her visage. But, as ever, she can-does: “Ultimately, Henrique was not a fit and that was regrettable.”
Yahoo, which is tweeting the show, does not tweet that, but I shall cue Francis Albert Sinatra:
“Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and I saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”
She definitely does do it her way and I kinda like that, even when it is not working revenue-wise. Mayer promises that she will be the point person on this and will not be replacing De Castro.
I am looking up that classic song on my iPod, which causes me to miss Goldman trying to hedge his way out of a question about the crappy forward guidance for 2014.
Now comes a question about mobile monetization and when the heck all these wacky acquisitions would count. “Virtually no revenue” is a phrase that should never come out of the mouth of a CFO, but it does here.
Finally, a most excellent question of whether Yahoo needs to get back into search and whether Yahoo has too many people working for it. When she came in, numerous board members have told me, Mayer promised to make big cuts.
She has declined to do that, and does not answer the question. “We continue to wrestle with that,” says Goldman, who you kind of get the idea is dying to cut costs in headcount. “We are not forgetting about that, if you will.”
As to search, Mayer delivers an interesting factoid: Panama, Yahoo’s great and failed attempt to beat Google back in the day, is now essentially closed.
Oooh, another Henrique question — these analysts are being naughty — about what the heck happened.
“Out of respect for Henrique, I would rather not comment on the past,” Mayer declined to comment, except when she sent out that company-wide letter saying that she had fired him. Except that, no comment. But he was bounced. Out of respect, let’s leave it at we tossed him hard. Out the door with a giant bag of money, but really we pushed him. Toast! But respect!
Mayer finishes with a Yahoo News Digest-style recap, which was kind of devoid of the real news — the disturbing results — and full of only appy-happy news.
Like I said: She does it her way.