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"Our top priority is a focused, coherent mobile strategy," declared, Marissa Mayer on October 22, 2012 during her first investor call as CEO of Yahoo!, which included the comment, "we'll have to be a predominantly mobile company". Given Yahoo's diminished market share for search engine, what opportunity exists for Yahoo in a mobile context?
Our expectation is that Yahoo will focus their efforts around service and software plays. And yet, dominant vendors such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and even RIM have a strong lead in the market with powerful operating systems that can stake a claim to major device lines, and therefore own large segments of the application developer channel; as well as viable channel partnerships for content. These vendors have all advanced commercially successful services for mobile platforms, covering the gamut from maps to entertainment to search. In addition, these vendors are making a drive, from a sales perspective, to increase penetration in non-dominant areas such as Google and Apple into the enterprise, and Microsoft and RIM into the personal space. These players are fiercely fighting each other through content partnerships, patent actions, innovation, and strategic acquisitions, thereby raising the barriers to enter the market. Where is there room left for Yahoo as a major mobile player?
For now, there isn't. What Yahoo should focus on is doubling down on its core identity, and strengthening its brand identity in the mobile space. While Yahoo's brand and user base have sunk in recent years, the company remains a valuable source of news, entertainment, and information for ordinary people of whom, luckily, there are some 7 billion and counting. Several hundred million people still look to Yahoo every day for curated news, videos and media, and information on local businesses. The companies that have traditionally owned that space - local newspapers - are evaporating by the day. That leaves a significant opportunity for Yahoo to take over the role that newspapers are leaving behind, and become the de facto first-port-of-call for ordinary people for personal, rather than professional, information. Investors will always look to the Wall Street Journal, scientists to Science, entrepreneurs to Techcrunch; and there are plenty of strong outlets people go to for information related to their jobs. But information about local politics? Local businesses? Lighter news? Self-help? Local Craigslist? Yahoo can and should focus on becoming the global/local leader in every segment of information below the professional. Global because its infrastructure allows it to reach every household; local because its intelligence allows it to tailor information to the needs of each community; and leader because its scale and reach into the advertising world allows it to monetize this information in a way that local newspapers no longer can do.
Is being the world's source for local and lighter information a glamorous role for Yahoo to play? No, but it's more glamorous than extinction, which is where Yahoo is heading if its mobile strategy only replicates the footprint of the leaders in the mobile domain. Yahoo needs to ensure it focuses on its capabilities as a content provider with mobile technology as the tool not the endgame.
With the acquisition of Stamped, Yahoo is investing in building a team to execute their mobile strategy. The sooner Yahoo gets serious about acquisitions that bolster its current - and eroding - niche, the sooner it will find itself able to speak its own name in earnest.