Yahoo's Bartz: Good content, strong analytics can drive innovative advertising models

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz talks site analytics, advertising potential and the importance of mobile at the Morgan Stanley technology conference today.

Yahoo celebrated its 15th birthday yesterday, making it an old-timer among many other Internet properties. But with CEO Carol Bartz running the show - on the job 15 months now - the company is feeling young at heart and eager to redefine what it does.

During a birthday celebration yesterday, Bartz offered a reminder that things don't turn around overnight, especially when a new management style jumps in during one of the worst economic recessions in history. She even pointed to Apple's turnaround following the return of Steve Jobs. He was at the helm for four years before the company launched the iPod and took off to become the powerhouse that it is today.

Bartz elaborated on the company's growth strategy during a Q&A session at the Morgan Stanley Technology Media & Telecom Conference today. To hear Bartz talk about the growth potential, there doesn't seem to be any "ifs" in her voice. They're not guessing at Yahoo. They're starting to get a solid pulse of what the recession-slammed advertisers and site visitors want. And they're acting on it.

Through an overused baseball analogy that she didn't start, she explained that the company is just in the first inning of the game. She said the company serves content to 160 million visitors everyday. In fact, she said, that's more 10 million more people that tuned into this year's Super Bowl, long considered the granddaddy of television advertising. The Yahoo audience - whether on Sports or Finance or Entertainment pages - are not only engaging in the content but also giving Yahoo some analytical insight as to what each individual user is interested in, down to the zip code.

The interesting thing about Yahoo is the variety of people who come for different reasons. There's a wealth of knowledge there that's largely untapped, she said. It's that depth of analysis that advertisers want, though, and Yahoo is eager to sift through it to meet the needs of advertisers.

Case in point: Walmart and Yahoo have teamed on a campaign called the 365 Days of Mom, one that allows Walmart greater insight into the purchasing mindset of moms who shop in their brick-and-mortar stores. When do moms start helping their daughters shop for prom dresses. Analyzing the searches and the clicks against the demographics, Yahoo can find that information for Walmart. They'll also want to know when moms start shopping for Valentine's Day gifts. After all, there's no sense decking out the stores with red hearts and aisles of boxed candies if no one is interested in it until February 1. With the right information - based on data that Yahoo users probably don't even know they're coughing up, a company like Walmart can operate more efficiently by tapping the right markets at the right time.

She also spent some time talking about Yahoo's mobile efforts, which she said is on the forefront of all conversations across all Yahoo teams. Specifically, they want to optimize the Yahoo experience based on the screen size of the device - something that becomes increasingly important in emerging markets.

The mobile experience has to be top-notch, she said, if the company wants to maintain and grow its user base on the PC side. If someone interested in finance, for example, likes a competitors mobile experience over Yahoo's, she doesn't want that user to then turn to the competitors PC-Web site for the content.

Finally, she was asked what Yahoo plans to do with its unrestricted cash. There may be a stock buyback down the road. And she also suggested that there may be some smaller acquisitions, too - especially those that are focused around analytics and Mom sites. (That says a lot about the significance of that Walmart deal, huh?)

Of course, she wasn't using this event to make any acquisition announcements.