Can Yahoo be Saved? Is Facebook Old Hat? Is AOL Relevant? Is Google on the Road to Domination? - 'Time has Come Today'

By Peter Bernstein May 15, 2012

Here are four things to contemplate. First, the drama surrounding the comings and goings at Yahoo continue to unfold. Second, in the face of Facebook’s IPO a new survey by the Associated Press and CNBC found that 50 percent of respondents see Facebook as a fad like the hula hoop and lava lamp raising doubts about the stock’s valuation. Third, questions as to whether AOL can transform fast enough to be a premiere player going forward abound as it adapts to life with the Huffington Post as part of its body politic. Fourth, Google’s portfolio is being investigated for fears of domination. 

Like the new hit TV show Touch, all of these developments are connected. The connection is TIME, the universal constant and true lingua franca of the Internet age. Let me explain.

Time is of the essence

Answer the following questions:

  • What can’t we create more of but can only use better?
  • What do website operators need as a metric to entice advertisers?
  • What do advertisers disparately want?
  • What is the source of monetization of the Internet?

Obviously, the answer to all of the above is time, specifically more of it. Time after all is a finite resource.   The online world has emerged as exhibit #1 in the proof case for the old axiom that, “Time is Money!”   Indeed, time is not merely of the essence but from a monetization perspective it is the essence. 

As to the questions posed in the title, here is a bit of context.   Recent Nielson rankings say it all:

 Look at the time differentials. Factor out that some part of Google’s number may be a bit of an apples versus oranges construct since people search and run. Look at this knowing that it is a challenge to fully understand the impact of people leaving various sites’ windows open all day. That said, the hours/minutes/seconds spent speak volumes. 

Thus, in answer to the question as to what Yahoo’s new regime must do it is to make the site a place people want to visit for more intimate sessions. Same goes for AOL. Google with its expansive portfolio that includes transactional capabilities (PayPal) and entertainment (YouTube) and it moves into end-to-end mobility with Android, Google Wallet and Motorola. In fact, it’s no surprise they are pushing advertising on YouTube and coming up with new ways to keep you in their domain. To paraphrase the rock group The Eagles hit “Hotel California,” you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.”   

As to Facebook, please pardon the play on words, but only time will tell. Given the huge advantage it currently holds the battle for our eyeballs, hearts, minds and wallets is theirs to lose. However, the survey shows people are skeptical in general, and as an item in The Wall Street Journal today, “GM to Stop Advertising on Facebook,” demonstrates nothing can or should be taken for granted. 

As the Chamber Brothers intoned back in the 1960s with their super hit, “Time Has Come Today.”

There is an old saying that, “you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.” The trick is not just in getting people to come, but convincing them to stay, play and hopefully pay. What this means for the struggling Yahoo and AOL franchises is they still have time but it is running out, and there is no time like the present to get a move on. 

Edited by Stefanie Mosca
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