Yahoo CEO gamely delivers weak results no one cares about and no news on sale that everyone does
Yahoo reported another weak quarter today, which has been business as usual at the Silicon Valley Internet giant. Earnings were less than expected and revenue was actually down too when certain things that prettied it up in the second quarter were removed.
So today, CEO Marissa Mayer and CFO Ken Goldman ginned up their gamest faces to appear on their hit talk show — okay, it looks more like a local cable program — to explain all that. And, at the same time, to not to talk about the sale of Yahoo's core business.
Which is all that anyone wanted to talk about.
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"There is no announcement today," said Mayer about what she called a "well-run, robust process."
Sheesh. No news. No big surprises. No end to this long-running, slow-motion managerial traffic accident.
I quickly ponder whether to go see "Ghostbusters" again, because it's clear that Mayer plans to do nothing but tout the accomplishments under her regime, none of which matter at all at this point. (Also, I have a mad crush on Kate McKinnon.)
Mayer is not as funny as Kate, but to her credit she did try to generate some energy.
Polyvore, an acquisition that many think Mayer overpaid for, won some award. Congrats!
Something about a new mobile ad product called Yahoo Tiles that will not matter, but I like the name!
Mavens — Mayer's moniker for mobile, video, native and social ads and which she has based her turnaround on — seemed to go weaker. "We are seeing promising signs of improvement," she said, which is just what one would say when the thing you based your turnaround on is not turning as quickly.
Part of me wishes she would just say what I know is in the thought bubble above her head (besides, "Someday, I am going to Peter Thiel you, Kara!!"). You know like:
I really should not have taken this job.
Then, for a brief second, Mayer went a little real and seemed to give what felt like the beginnings of a goodbye. "This quarter has not been without its unique set of challenges," she said.
And then: "This groundwork will serve as a foundation for Yahoo's next chapter,"
And then: "I am proud of what this company has achieved over these past four years."
Translation: I have done my best and now Verizon's Tim Armstrong can fix this jalopy I tried to upgrade.
Indeed, it is hard for Mayer not to indicate that Yahoo is now in the final stretch as bidders like Verizon, Quicken Loans and several private equity players lob in their best offers of about $4 billion for the company minus its lucrative Asian assets.
How those stakes, in China's Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan, are distributed will also be a big question, as well as what Yahoo will do with its patent and real estate portfolios.
Neither Mayer or Goldman could or would answer that today on the call. And when it got to the question-and-answer period of the session, they both veered far away from the topic of a sale. Mayer seemed to like the respite and talking the wonky talk of fixing the company, which she is highly unlikely to do going forward.
Now. I. feel. badly.
Well, not that badly, given all the money and time and effort that has been for naught. As today's results showed, for example, Mayer's flagship acquisition of Tumblr has proven to be a zero. Yahoo paid $1.1 billion for the social networking in 2013, but wrote down the value of it by $230 million in the last quarter. Today, it added an additional $482 million to the write down.
And Yahoo is still losing in the search game, another favorite area of former Googler Mayer. And in display. And, well, everywhere.
Still, Mayer marched on today, getting all kinds of questions about Yahoo's future, a future that she will likely not be a part of and very soon. It was kind of analysts to continue the fiction that there would be a tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow for the company.
No, just today, so the show must go on. Still, when Yahoo's presenter for the earnings broadcast, Shibani Joshi, ended with "We'll see you next quarter," you could not help but be a little sad.
—By Kara Swisher, Recode.net.
CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.