Yahoo says it's no longer a digital media company

Yahoo is trying to get its mojo back, and that means rebranding itself as a "technology company". But is it?
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor on

Colleen Taylor at Techcrunch has reported that Yahoo has changed the way it describes itself in its latest 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Yahoo is now labeling itself first and foremost as a "global technology company" in the place where it used to call itself a "digital media company".

She writes that it's a small change but symbolic.

A far better description of Yahoo would be as a "technology media company". It uses sophisticated media technologies to publish digital content and advertising. What's not "media company" about that?

Technology companies develop and sell technologies, such as databases (Oracle), microprocessors (Intel), and software as a service (Salesforce.com). What technology can you buy from Yahoo?

Google is a media company and so are AOL, Facebook, Twitter, and hundreds of Silicon Valley companies, too.

Is Yahoo's change of description wrong timing yet again?

Yahoo realized it was a media company a long time ago, hiring Terry Semel as CEO in 2001, a 24-year veteran media executive, chairman and co-CEO of Time Warner.

However, it was a big mistake, because it was too early to think of itself as a media company and it led to Yahoo falling behind in the development of key media technologies such as search.

And it gave away its media technologies for very little money such as licensing its pay-per-click IP to Google, without which it wouldn't have had such a lucrative business.

A wolf in sheep's clothing

Google is a media company, but it prefers to be described as a tech company because it partners with traditional media companies.

In the mid 2000s, it struck deals with The New York Times and other large publishers to manage their online advertising. The NYTimes.com front page was full of Google delivered ads, often with a link, "If you'd like to advertise on this site click here" taking you straight to Google. The NY Times had handed over its advertising customer relations to Google — a rival media company!

If The New York Times considered Google to be a media company at the time, which it was, it would have approached such a partnership with a lot more caution.

These days, the NY Times Company [$NYT] and all newspaper publishers see Google [$GOOG] as a media company and a rival.

Even Eric Schmidt, chairman and former CEO, often refers to Google as a media company.

Silicon Valley is a "media valley"

It's a giant virtual Gutenberg machine made up of powerful media technologies that have replaced the innovation of movable type with that of programmable type — the extraordinary ability to publish pages of complex content on the fly and change them in real-time — across a massive distribution network that has enabled the end points to publish back.

It's now a two-way internet, a two-way media internet. Now it gets really interesting.

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