When was the last time you used Yahoo Answers?
Can’t remember? You probably haven’t used Yahoo Real Estate, Notepad or Local in awhile either.
The Sunnyvale, California-based Web giant lists roughly 60 products and services in the US, but the portfolio is in such disarray that Yahoo itself can’t keep track of it. Clicking on some services, like Contacts, yields a broken link. And there are links to other services, like Profiles and Directory, that have already been shut down.
CEO Marissa Mayer knows this sprawl is now Yahoo’s biggest problem and has pledged to bring more “focus” to stave off irrelevancy. That’s a polite way of saying some of those services might be on the chopping block, an idea CFO Ken Goldman confirmed in a conference call last month when he said Yahoo would “disinvest” those that weren’t strong performers. (Yahoo might be in the heart of disruptive Silicon Valley, but it still encrypts its messages in Wall Street jargon.)
Mayer, who’s facing down angry investors asking for big cuts to Yahoo, knows the portal has been in perennial comeback mode since before she joined from Google three years ago. She’s tried directing attention to products for smartphones and tablets. But Yahoo is still stretched thin, some observers say, trying to do too many things, including search, fantasy sports, original TV shows, and news.
A Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment.
It’s unclear which Yahoo services might get whacked, but analysts say only a handful — mail, sports and search — are safe. Everything else is potentially on the endangered list.
Livetext, a new messaging app, is a candidate to meet the cleaver, analysts say. The app, Yahoo’s newest, was designed to ride the wave of messaging apps that has made Snapchat popular with teens. Instead, Livetext has gained limited traction since Yahoo announced it in July. The app is a mashup of videoconferencing and texting. Users watch each other thumb-type messages that appear on the other’s screen.
“I thought that was misguided from the start,” said Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research.
Another that might go: Yahoo’s Real Estate service, a collection of home listings and articles and videos about real estate.
The offering is barely a Yahoo product. The listings are all provided by another real estate business, Zillow. Analysts say many Yahoo users would rather just go straight to the source.
Of course, Yahoo has some sacred cows.
Its Mail service attracts 225 million people a month. And while that’s less than a third of Google’s mail service it remains a powerful tool for funneling people to Yahoo’s other offerings.
One of those is Sports Fantasy, where people assemble teams of professional athletes and compete using their real-life stats. Yahoo expanded the service in July, launching a daily version that lets players compete in one-day tournaments, rather than over an entire season. It remains a growth opportunity despite scrutiny from Nevada and New York regulators.
Then there’s search. Mayer, a former Google executive, has pushed Yahoo back to its roots as a search engine. The company is reportedly working on a mobile search product akin to Apple’s Siri digital assistant or Google’s Google Now service.
“Mobile search is still anybody’s game,” said Brian Solis, an analyst at the Altimeter Group. “If Yahoo has any chance at the future, it’s this.”
Blogging platform Tumblr, which Yahoo bought for $1.1 billion, and photo service Flickr may also be safe.
Still, there’s plenty left that can be cut.
Among that additional fat is Yahoo’s ill-fated attempt to break into Hollywood. Amid fanfare, the company resurrected “Community,” a cult TV show it bought last year. Nonetheless, it couldn’t make any money from the production.
News Digest, Yahoo’s news reading app, and Yahoo News itself, could also be places to slim, analysts said. (News video, however, is likely to stay. Anchor Katie Couric just renewed a multiyear contract with Yahoo.)
Yahoo Answers should also go, said Dawson. That’s because other sites like the question-and-answer service Quora do a better job, he said.
“Yahoo should be focusing on things it does uniquely well,” said Dawson. “But then, what does it do uniquely well?”