I get the idea of buying a bunch of hot start-ups, filled with clever people who can quickly build cloud-based mobile businesses. I like seeing a huge presence for technology in New York City, where media and fashion and finance all meld.
But I don't want to see a new logo that's too rich and too thin. I don't want to see another picture of Mayer rocking a hot outfit at a hot party among the hot people. I would prefer to see Warren Buffett in Vogue, in a ball gown, than you, ma'am. He has earned the privilege.
That Vogue piece, and Mayer's fashion shoot for it, seems to have been her jump the shark moment. (That episode of Happy Days aired when Mayer was 2.)Bill Gates wasn't cool and Steve Jobs was a virtual recluse. Larry Page is going gray faster than I am. He's just two years older than Marissa Mayer. Youth and good looks aren't what we're looking for on Wall Street. When we talk about big ones, we're talking about the number one followed by lots of zeroes, and with a dollar sign in front of it. Mayer has made investors a lot of money over the last year, but most of it came from selling a stake in Alibaba (ALBIY) back to China. In real terms, Yahoo! had less sales in the second quarter than it did a year before, the gains in profits were achieved by cutting expenses. Operating cash flow has been trending up the last two quarters, but $550 million on a market cap of $28.6 billion isn't a great performance. Despite all the hoopla, and the near-doubling of Yahoo!'s stock price, Ford (F) now sells at a higher earnings multiple than Yahoo!'s eight. Where is Alan Mulally's Vogue profile? My guess is that Mayer has until Christmas before the knives come out for real. This fall, Yahoo! needs to give us a great app or two we can hang our hats on. Maybe something that replaces RSS so that you don't miss news stories of interest. Or a solution to the problem of Internet identity and identity theft. Or an app that lets Americans shop Alibaba as easily as they do Amazon.com (AMZN). Yahoo! still has its content assets, and it has hundreds of programmers who know how to quickly build mobile apps that are hosted in clouds. It has all sorts of ties to Madison Avenue, to 57th Street, and to the fashion district. Marissa Mayer needs to use these things to wow us with something real, to show that this rapid delivery system can actually deliver something innovative. We need it by Christmas, and if we don't get it, missy, I suspect you are going to have a very, very unhappy New Year. After all, even AOL (AOL) was once a hot stock. At the time of publication, the author was long Yahoo. Follow @DanaBlankenhorn This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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