We’ve been talking about a search deal between Yahoo and Microsoft for so long (no, really, read this piece I wrote over two years ago) that it feels, to me anyway, like the deal’s already been done. But it hasn’t.
Today new details are coming out, thanks to a report in Ad Age (Ad Age? Breaking search news? I really must get back to reporting, eh?). While there’s nothing particularly new in the report – Yahoo will sell ads on its own site as well as Bing.com, Microsoft will focus on the technology, and both will split revenues – what is new is the claim that the deal will be announced “as soon as this week.”
I for one sure as heck hope it will, so we can move on from this slow motion train wreck of a negotiation. Valuable time has been lost – with clarity, both teams can focus on competing and winning, rather than arguing over a diminishing share while Google runs away with the game.
Which raises the question: “What *is* the game”? It’s one worth asking.
It’s very clear that Yahoo and Microsoft should partner on search. What I find more interesting is whether they will partner on display – both companies have major ocean-boiling platforms in development, and neither seems anywhere near where they should be. This is an area where Google is vulnerable.
What do I mean? Well, Yahoo bought Right Media and a few other ad network plays, and pre Bartz, was intent on creating a soup to nuts display marketplace. Microsoft bought Acquantive. Both did so in response to Google’s purchase of Doubleclick. While the first wicket of the search game is over and Google has won, display is another beast entirely. Billions of dollars have been invested in owning display inventory and platforms, but it’s not clear those dollars will return effectively. For now, they seem content to focus on what’s called “performance display” – in other words, display ads driven by the same direct-response mentality as search.
There’s certainly a good market out there for performance display, but it’s not a game changer. The game changer is in building a platform which works for the other side of the marketing equation: branding. And as far as I can tell, none of the major players seem to be paying attention to that opportunity. They should be.
I’ll be writing more on that topic in the coming weeks.