“Don’t Screw Up” Your Goal Setting
Fresh this morning from The Register, here’s a comment that makes me nod my head.
Famously, Yahoo! has promised during its $1.1bn buy of hipster blog site Tumblr not to “screw it up”.
If I was a Yahoo! shareholder, I should hope not – given the head-spinning number of dollars. But not screwing up is like Google’s promise to “not do Evil” – impossible to comply with, and something people throw back at you.
I suppose I could disclose that my Yahoo e-mail address is almost as old as my work e-mail address. I don’t use Tumblr, I can barely figure out WordPress. So there.
I understand that Ms. Mayer’s comments were meant to keep the Tumblr faithful on the site. People can be funny, especially when they feel proprietary about the technology they’re using. The Yahoo assertion was that Tumblr could live on as an independent entity and nobody would have to adapt to new uses… just new ads.
There’s plenty of reason to leave Tumblr alone and very little reason to start meddling. Like Skype, Tumblr is an extremely simple proposition that does one simple thing. Skype is a simple VoIP and vidcall service used by millions and Tumblr is a photo, text and media posting and sharing service also used by millions. Their biggest asset is not product lines, but the oldest asset in the book – end-users. In the case of Tumblr, it’s 300 million unique users and a claimed 50 million blog posts per day.
Tumblr, like Skype, doesn’t have highly diversified product lines, manufacturing or channel operations around the globe that need to be rationalized to suit a new owners’ hub-and-spoke operations or put on single price lists and go-to-market plans. These are not complex beasts like StorageTek (bought by Sun Microsystems) or – even – Sun itself, bought by Oracle.
Yep. That said, Yahoo can’t overpay for something and not reap benefits, so how do you not screw up something by touching it all around the edges? I think this will be a big challenge, especially for a company desperate for some good news. Yahoo was really one of the first of the new breeds of Internet companies, and it’s lost out to later entries like Google and Facebook, even as it maintains a loyal base.
I would hope that Yahoo sets very clear goals on what it expects — both out of Tumblr and in its slow merge of technologies. It’s vital to the success of both entities, now one in trying to get back to the top.