Yahoo! Has 100 Days to Change Your Mind

We're at the midpoint of Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) CEO Jerry Yang's three-month strategic assessment of the company he helped create. Since the company went for an internal hire after CEO Terry Semel was pushed out back in June, investors are hungry for change.

The company's latest quarterly report was typical. Earnings clocked in flat, revenue climbed just 11%, and the company talked down its second-half guidance. This brings us back to Yang's soul-searching for growth catalysts, especially since searching is what put Yahoo! on the map in the first place.

Yang isn't talking, but this morning's Wall Street Journal leans on unnamed "people familiar with the matter" to get a sneak peak at Yahoo!'s potential changes.

Perhaps the biggest nugget is that the possibility of outsourcing its paid search business is off the table. Letting the more successful Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) take over the business would create an immediate short-term performance boost. Handing the keys to a less seasoned Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) would likely give Microsoft a bountiful windfall for landing Yahoo!'s billable space.

According to the article, those options are no longer being considered. Despite the favorable bottom-line impact, outsourcing paid search would eat into the company's stature and credibility as a one-stop shop in areas where Yahoo! excels, like graphic advertising and behavioral marketing.

This doesn't mean that Yang would insult investors by maintaining the status quo. Some claim that a shakeup in Yahoo!'s digital music business is in order. Nearly 300 Yahoo! hires work in that division, and restructuring efforts would hack away at the payroll as the company either overhauls or closes its music subscription service.

That wouldn't be a surprise. It's not all that different from when Time Warner's (Nasdaq: TWX  ) AOL got paid to hand over its 350,000 Music Now subscribers to Napster (Nasdaq: NAPS  ) .

Yahoo! hasn't had a problem in shutting down services like its auctions or namesake photo-sharing site in the past. There's nothing wrong with being a silver or bronze medalist. But in areas like music subscription services, where Yahoo! is a non-contender, it's sometimes better for the brand to either bow out altogether, or come back with a unique product.

Either way, the clock is ticking. With Yahoo! shares off by one-third since peaking four months ago, let's hope that ticking is an eye-opening alarm clock -- and not another time bomb.

Some more Y! reading to get you through the next 50 days:


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