It's been nearly 16 months since Jerry Yang took over from Terry Semel as Yahoo's CEO. Long past his 'blame it on the last guy' period. He owns the place now. If the strategic plan he promised in his first 100 days was every produced, it's in complete disarray. The Google alliance is abandoned. Both acquisition and strategy alignment with Microsoft are in the ash heap. The company's stock price has plummeted past the point where the CEO and board could have sold to Microsoft. Yahoo continues to lose search share.
If the Yahoo board is evenly vaguely doing their job on behalf of shareholders, they are searching for a successor. So here's a gratis list of questions they ought to asking a CEO candidate, who should either have defensible answers walking in, or develop them as part of his or her diligence process, before agreeing to take the hot seat.
- Yahoo has lost the search wars. How will you reposition the company so the market sees Yahoo as being in a fight that it can win?
- In light of Yahoo's current user demographics, how will you serve those users better? What demographic segments or topical interest groups do you see as essential to keep? How will you do so?
- How will you leverage Yahoo's underworked community assets? Given the company's persistent failure to exploit its large number of group, mail and other accounts, who needs to leave the organization?
- Which of Yahoo's international editions and partnerships do you see as successful? Are they synergistic with the North American business? If so, how will you exploit the synergy? If not, how will you set priorities for investment?
- Is there any content to which Yahoo itself adds value? What is the ROI on that investment and how can it be demonstrated?
- Why would an advertiser want to do business with your Yahoo? (Answering 'It's not Google" is an immediate disqualfication.)
- Is there a basis for strategic alliance with Microsoft? If so, is it based on technology, similar market positions and something else? Be specific. How could such an alliance be positioned as a combination of strengths, rather than weaknesses?
Sometimes asking the right questions is more important than immediate answers. Those of us who wish Yahoo well can hope that the board and new leadership will come up with some.
Update: Well, that didn't take long. No, I had no inside information, it was just kind of obvious.