Verizon Again Doubles Down On Yahoo After 6 Years Of Failure
from the telecoms-can't-innovate dept
You might recall that Verizon’s attempt to pivot from grumpy old telco to sexy new Millennial ad brand hasn’t been going so well. Oddly, mashing together two failing 90s brands in AOL and Yahoo, and renaming the coagulated entity “Oath,” didn’t really impress many people. The massive Yahoo hack, a controversy surrounding Verizon snoopvertising, and the face plant by the company’s aggressively hyped Go90 streaming service (Verizon’s attempts to make video inroads with Millennials) didn’t really help.
By late 2018 Verizon was forced to acknowledge that its Oath entity was effectively worthless. By 2019, Verizon wound up selling Tumblr to WordPress owner Automattic at a massive loss after a rocky ownership stretch. Throughout all of this, Verizon has consistently pretended that this was all part of some amazing, master plan.
Those claims surfaced again this week with Verizon announcing that the company would be doubling and tripling down on the Yahoo experiment. For one, the company is launching Yahoo Shops, “a new marketplace destination featuring a curated, native shopping experience tailored to the user including innovative tech, from shoppable video to 3D try-ons, and more.” It’s also shifting its business model to focus more on subscriptions through Yahoo Plus, hoping to add on to the 3 million people that, for some reason, subscribe to products like Yahoo Fantasy and Yahoo Finance.
Again though, all of this sounds very much like unsurprising and belated efforts to mimic products and services that already exist. While surely somebody somewhere finds these efforts enticing, that this is the end result of its $4.48 billion Yahoo acquisition in 2017, and its 2015 $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL is just kind of…meh. It’s in no way clear how Verizon intends to differentiate itself in the market, and people who cover telecom and media for a living continue to find Verizon’s persistence both adorable and amusing:
Truly nothing is funnier than phone companies doing media
— nilay patel (@reckless) March 23, 2021
Again, as companies that have spent the better part of a generation as government-pampered, natural monopolies, creativity, competition, innovation, and adaptation are alien constructs. Both AT&T and Verizon have thrown around countless billions at trying to become disruptive players in new media and advertising, and the end result has been nothing but a parade of stumbles. In fact AT&T’s probably been a better poster child for this than even Verizon, given it spent $200 billion on megamergers only to lose around 8 million TV subscribers in just a few years. Growth for growth’s sake isn’t a real strategy.
The ultimate irony is that both companies even managed to successfully convince regulators at the FCC to effectively self-immolate, and even that couldn’t buy either company the success they
crave believe they’re owed. Neither did the billions in money gleaned from the Trump tax cuts, which resulted in more layoffs than innovation. There are oodles of lessons here for those looking to learn from them, but absolutely no indication that’s actually going to ever happen.