Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Know What Yahoo Is

Yesterday was another busy day. I was scheduled to be interviewed at the All Things Digital Conference.

I woke up at 5am to get in a light jog (20 miles). Working out in the morning helps clear my head and gets out some of my aggression. This is particularly important before press interviews, because reporters can try your patience.

After a breakfast of raw eggs, the driver arrived to pick me up.

“Hi Carol,” he said. I like to encourage informality with my reports.

“Hi Yang,” I replied, as he opened the car door for me.

Jerry is still adjusting to his new role so I asked him, “You know where we’re going?”

Jerry assured me that he did, but I detected uncertainty in his voice. Sure enough, we were lost half an hour later. I told him to pull over and get out the map.

He pulled out this giant flip chart that spilled in all directions. It reminded me of the Yahoo org chart before I streamlined it.

“Fuck, Yang, you couldn’t find your way out of a paper bag.”

“Sorry Carol,” he muttered.

I called my assistant, who is extremely competent. She used to be a Navy Seal. I told her we had a Code Red. She looked up directions on Google Maps, and soon we were on our way. We made it to the conference just in time.

Walt’s assistant met me in the green room and walked me onto the stage. Then she plopped down in the seat next to me as if she was going to interview me!

“Where’s Walt?” I asked.

The young lady, Kara, explained that she was Walt’s “partner” (I guess this is the title that assistants now prefer) and that she would be doing the interviewing.

Before I could protest, the interview started. “What is Yahoo?” she asked.

“That’s easy,” I answered. “It’s the place where millions and millions of people find relevant and contextual information.”

Isn’t that the internet? she replied.

“It’s a place to check in with the people and things you’re interested in,” I continued smoothly.

Isn’t that Facebook?

“An integrated experience for people… news, sports, homepage, mail, … high school Flip videos for the local football team.” Take that, you pipsqueak!

For some reason, however, the lengthy list of all the things that Yahoo is didn’t seem to satisfy the interviewer. It only made her more determined to find the single thing that Yahoo is, as if that kind of simplistic clarity is useful to a business.

To cut short this futile exercise, I dropped an F-bomb on her. The audience seemed to like that. I patted her on the leg so my hostility would pass for charm. It worked. We moved on to comfortable territory like my extensive management experience.

I was happy when the interview was over. Of course, as soon as I enter the green room, who do I run into? Old Q-Ball. “You ready to deal?” he whispered.

“Shh, you knucklehead. Too many reporters here.” I passed him a note to meet me at a speakeasy down the street.

We reconvened in the back room.

“What’s it going to take to get a deal done?” asked the chrome-domed CEO from Redmond.

“A boatload of money,” I said.

“That sounds like a lot,” said Q-Ball, mulling it over. “How about a wheelbarrow full of money?”

“Nope. Boatload.”

“How about a truckload?” he tried again.

“Boatload. B-O-A-T.”

Q-Ball grimaced. “I’ll have to think about it,” he said.

I downed my scotch and left him there.

My next appointment was an interview with CNBC. Right away, the reporter jumped down my throat, talking about how far behind Google we are. I cut him off.

“Excuse me. We’re not a search company. We’re a…” I almost fell into the trap of saying what Yahoo is, but I wasn’t going there again. I cleared my throat, making it sound like we’re an “ahem company.”

The reporter looked ready to follow up, but a glare let him know that an F-bomb would be coming his way if he did.

I charged on, saying that Google didn’t have finance, groups, or headline news. It was an honest mistake. The PR department later informed me about the existence of Google Finance, Google Groups, and Google News. With the speed of change on the internet, how is one supposed to keep up?

Fortunately the reporter didn’t call me on it. Jerkwad must not be keeping up either.

I warned the PR department to write me some better talking points. If they can’t define what Yahoo is, I’ll damn well find people who can.

After all, I can’t spend all my time answering these pointless questions. I’ve got a fucking company to run.