Why Yahoo Sucks at Social When They Should Have Led the Charge

JD Rucker December 17 Technology

May Yahoo Buzz, Delicious, and MyBlogLog rest in peace. You likely won’t be missed, but your collective unrealized potentials will go down in Internet history as examples of how to take greatness and run it into the grave.

A leaked screenshot of an all-hands meeting for the Yahoo product team has prompted (confirmed) speculations that many of Yahoo’s products are either being merged or discontinued altogether. This came after a round of layoffs yesterday.

Why did these services have to die? In many cases, they were promising from their inception or when they were purchased by Yahoo, and yet here we are about to see the first true leader in social bookmarking, one of several supposed “Digg Killers”, and a site that had all of the tools to be better than Technorati all fade into obscurity or non-existence.

Why?

They got “Yahooed.” For the sake of this article, we will not be using the proper “!” after their name. There is nothing to exclaim about Yahoo right now.

 

The Yahooing of Buzz

When it was first launched in February 2008, many proclaimed it as the next “Digg Killer”. Like Netscape (which became Propeller, which became dead), Mixx, and others, Buzz was never able to get enough of a foothold despite early impressive momentum and results. Reddit is the only social news site that has been able to match (beat?) Digg in the segment, and it seems that the only true contender as a “Digg Killer” is Digg itself, but that’s another story.

Buzz never materialized as a true contender for several reasons:

  • All or nothing. A “front page” early on from Yahoo Buzz meant very little traffic unless it was promoted to the Yahoo homepage, in which case it often sent too much traffic that would kill servers.
  • No chance of a “home run”. Over the last year, a story promoted to the popular section of Yahoo Buzz steadily increased in the traffic it sent, but the frequency of achieving the Yahoo front page dropped to nil other than for Yahoo properties themselves.
  • The promotion algorithm was easy to “game”. Most reputable publishers would not buy votes or artificially inflate their counts, so the top news section had either internal Yahoo sites, a handful of partners, and spam.
  • No significant promotion of the service. It should have been prominent on the Yahoo homepage for at least a year to encourage people to join and participate in shaping the news.
  • Nofollow links. With no SEO benefit given from the site, some spammers avoided the site. Still, the loss of valuable juice and promotion from marketing firms has been proven over and over again to hurt sites more than they help (see Mixx, Propeller, and every other social news site that employs 100% nofollow attributes to their outbound links). Digg, Reddit, and Slashdot, the three remaining strong traffic driving social news sites, do not use the nofollow attribute on their promoted stories.
  • Atrocious URL structure. Here is what a URL from this story’s submission looks like on the sites:
  • No community. Reddit is all about the community. Digg has the seed for a strong community and the interactions between different users is often strong and clever. Yahoo Buzz has a bunch of people expressing their opinions with no reason or desire to comment on other people’s opinions.
  • No ads. If the service were able to turn a profit, it would likely not see itself on the chopping blocks. The only ads on the site are not visible from the homepage. On the story page, they’re buried below where people have to scroll down just to see them. Needless to say, they don’t get a lot of advertising dollars funneling through Yahoo Buzz.

 

The Yahooing of Delicious and MyBlogLog

Unlike the complex and painful death signs surround Yahoo Buzz, Delicious and MyBlogLog fell victim to another form of Yahooing: lack of innovation. Delicious is THE true social bookmarking site. It’s the one that became the most popular, sends the most traffic, and had the best functionality. MyBlogLog was a brilliant alternative to Technorati in organizing and connecting bloggers.

Looking at them today compared to 2 or 3 years ago, you wouldn’t see a difference. Nothing has changed. Nothing has improved.

They’ve gone stale.

The Internet moves too fast to wait around for services to innovate. It’s “improve or die” on the web, and the lack of any actions by Yahoo over the last couple of years to improve or promote these services is the single reason why they will not exist soon.

 

Why Yahoo Sucks at Social

“Gimme the baby.” That’s what an old boss of mine used to say all the time when people would try to explain something. He wanted people to get to the point. The pregnancy and delivery process were not something that he had the patience to sit through.

With a consolidated social strategy, Yahoo could have been the leader in social media. They have the traffic. They have the email list that’s larger than just about any company in the world. They needed to say, “We’re going to BE social media because it’s the future and because we can.”

Instead of taking it by the horns and owning, they tasted here, nibbled there, and mastered the art of indecisive lack of direction.

When they initially bought Delicious, it should have become the cornerstone of their social experience. Rather than create Buzz, they should have integrated more social news features into Delicious and expanded it beyond a simple social bookmarking site. Delicious Buzz would have had a much better chance of becoming a success. They would have wanted to keep the bookmarking functionality of Delicious but also created a Digg-like voting site on buzz.delicious.com that would pull both from the current Delicious user-base while bringing in the traffic and style that Yahoo Buzz did in the beginning.

Delicious would have become the hub for social media that Yahoo is as a web portal.

MyBlogLog should have also been integrated with Delicious. A site such as blogs.delicious.com could have eventually eclipsed Technorati as the blog index and indicator that people use to judge the traffic and success of a blog.

The combined social forces centered around the Delicious model and powered by Yahoo would have given them something to work with, but it still would have needed more. Marketing is something that most don’t like to talk about, but Yahoo has one of the most visited pages in the world. They have one of the largest email databases in the world. They have a large team (that will soon be 4% smaller) and the attention of the world.

All they had to do was make some good decisions and act.

Hindsight is 20/20. It’s easier for bloggers to point fingers. In this case, unfortunately, we didn’t need to wait for the inevitable to know that it was going to happen.

Written by JD Rucker

+JD Rucker is Editor at Soshable, a Social Media Marketing Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and founder of both Judeo Christian Church and Dealer Authority. He drinks a lot of coffee, usually in the form of a 5-shot espresso over ice. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
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2 Comments »

 
#1
Ricky James Moore II
June 24th, 2011 at 3:07 am

I wanted to point out that Yahoo also sucks at everything from web design to their instant messenger, and their search and email are both inferior to Google.

Yahoo’s problem is that it is still in 1997, and it will stay there until it finally goes bankrupt.

 
 
#2
Latency
July 5th, 2011 at 6:54 am

thanks for writing this.  I really like yahoo bashing article, because i’m really frustrated with them.  if they don’t innovate..fine, but for goodness sake, it pisses me off so bad when they buy great ideas and just let it die.  

here is my ran to yahoo: stop buying, yahoo, you just kill everything you touch.  As if your strategic acquisition team is completely on a different island as your development team.  do you even have a development team ? or are they just a bunch of unpaid interns ?!?!?  

 

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