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Why Yahoo Won’t Face Google In Traditional Media November 13, 2006

Posted by Bill in Google, Search Marketing, traditional advertising, Yahoo Search Marketing.
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With Google announcing that it’s launching both a newspaper advertising program and contextual radio ads, I’m left wondering if Yahoo will ever follow suit, rolling out a traditional media arm of its own.
For now, obviously, Yahoo in traditional media is out of the question. Yahoo’s facing tough times after poor Q3 performance, and it’s not in a position to extend its reach as dramatically as Google has. But that doesn’t mean traditional will be out of the question forever, and it’s a worthwhile question to ask.
I’ll save you the anticipation and get to the answer right away: the answer is no, absolutely not, Yahoo will never enter the traditional advertising space. I’ll explain why that’s so, but I’ll need to take a detour through the very non-traditional channel of the mobile Internet.
Along with Google’s new traditional ventures, recently both Google and Yahoo made advancements in mobile. Through Gmail Mobile, Google launched its e-mail service into the mobilesphere. Google also joined forces with Samsung and wireless provider Helio; together, the three now provide a satellite-powered Google Maps that helps you locate people. Meanwhile, Yahoo was pushing mobile ahead in a different direction: you can now deliver display advertisements via Yahoo Mobile.
These are very different paths to making mobile better. Yahoo’s mobile display ads will help mobile directly, immediately making it more valuable for advertisers and for Yahoo itself. Google’s mobile advancements, on the other hand, are more indirect; they’re focused on using mobile to get more value out of other channels-specifically, e-mail and social networking technology.
That distinction is consistent with the overall Google and Yahoo mobile strategies. A visit to google.mobile.com shows that Google Mobile services are essentially Google’s core online offerings (Google Search, Gmail, Google SMS, Google News and Google Maps) served up to your mobile device. That’s very different from mobile.yahoo.com, through which Yahoo Mobile provides online standards like e-mail and search, but also offers very mobile-specific items like mobile screensavers and ringtones. Again, Google’s using the mobile medium to get more use out of preexisting non-mobile channels; Yahoo, meanwhile, is embracing the mobile channel directly.
That’s a difference that reaches far beyond mobile. Actually, it’s a difference that runs as deep as each company’s mission statements. Google says it exists to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” What that means in practice becomes clear when you look to Google’s oldest and most popular product: Google Search. Search organizes information and makes it accessible; more important, though, it creates that accessibility and organization by using a new channel (search) to improve the accessibility of an older one (the Internet). Which is the same strategy that we see Google using in Google Mobile.
Yahoo’s stated goal is different from Google’s. Yahoo aims “to be the most essential global Internet service for consumers and businesses”; it’s looking to be the world’s most powerful new-media empire. That goal makes each new media channel valuable in its own right, as it’s one more potential piece of the empire that Yahoo is trying to build. That emphasis on the channel itself is why Yahoo’s mobile strategy focuses directly on the mobile sphere by offering ringtones, and why Yahoo has built its own enormous publisher network–while Google’s publisher-related activities are limited to searching publisher sites and advertising on them.
And it’s this difference in goals that explains why Google’s a natural fit for the newspaper business, and why Yahoo isn’t. Running newspaper ads might be a divergence from Google’s stated goals of organizing information, but Google-managed print media is very much in keeping with using newer media models to enhance older ones. There’s really not much of a leap from using search engines to make the Internet work better, to using search thinking to make traditional advertising work better. Both tactics are about using one channel to improve the next.
But Yahoo isn’t interested in improving older media. Yahoo is focused on dominating in newer media. Which is why Yahoo would really have no interest in traditional advertising, even if the option were open to it. And it’s why Yahoo won’t enter the traditional space, even after it gets its house back in order. And finally, it’s why the underlying differences between Yahoo and Google are starting to cause the old online rivals to drift further and further apart–and why Google and Yahoo might not be rivals anymore in Web 3.0.

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