She did all of this without dinging the balance sheet at all on the way to shrinking the shares outstanding from 1.4 billion in 2009 to 1 billion today. She still has $4.8 billion in cash, and a lot more monetizable firepower behind it.
But there was one line in the call -- actually one word in the call -- that created the hush and then brought on the sell: "programmatic." That's a method of allocating advertising dollars that have swept an industry with too much inventory, and it is sucking all of the margin out of display ads. Gone are the days in "journalism" -- if that's what you want to call a lot of content on Yahoo and other sites around the Web -- when there was a finite amount of copy against which to advertise. In a world where 250,000 blogs are started each day at Yahoo's Tumblr division -- in a world where content is not only
king but even pawn -- you need machines to figure out where to get your best eyeballs.
Wanting your ads placed to the right copy, and being willing to pay a premium for it, used to be the bedrock of journalism. That whole idea is now gone. Algorithms tell you where to place those ads. You don't do precision daylight bombing, either. You carpet bomb with machines. While you may end up bombing some places you don't need to reach, you get the job done at a much lower cost, and a much lower profit for those purveying the content.
So display ads were "challenged." What about the new page views? Yahoo has "yet to translate into revenue growth."
I don't know how it will. Because the money you get for advertising has to come from somewhere non-programmatic. It has to be somewhere that has truly proprietary non-replicable content. A good example is the "Saturday Night Live" deal that everyone was so gaga about on the on-call: old material that is proprietary enough that advertisers might like it.
How important is this to Yahoo? There is an incredible mismatch between a lack of video -- which you can still get good rates against -- and what the advertisers want from Yahoo. I think that
be the surest way to reverse this trend, but we can't be sure. With programmatic buying, who knows?