Of all the half assed companies out there, I cannot for the life of me figure out WTF is going on with Yahoo.

There are some companies that suck, but they do so in a way you almost understand. Delta — “America’s Meanest Airline” — is a perfect example. The airline relentlessly cut costs to the point that if you need customer service, suicide is a preferable option. Delta has the lowest passenger satisfaction, highest flight delays, and highest baggage fees in the industry. (We have been long various airlines this past year).

I understand their suckiness, I get that its actually a cost savings program the company puts into place between bankruptcies.

Yahoo, on the other hand, seems hell bent on destroying their own value as fast as they can, across all of their properties:

Yahoo Message Boards area perfect example. They were once a huge traffic driver, but became so overrun with Spam and penny stock touts as to be all but worthless. And Yahoo owned search as one point in time, before Google steamrolled them.

The latest debacle is Yahoo messenger. I cannot log on without being greeted with a dozen spims (Spam IMs). Its made the product utterly unusable.If i could figure out how to resign from the program, I would — its tied into mail, which is why Yahoo is now my junk mail address.

At one time, I used a ton of Yahoo offerings. Now, I use Yahoo Tech Ticker, a home page, and their email as my junk address. That’s pretty much it — from indispensable to annoying in a few short years . . .

~~~

A dark horse for self-destruction is the usually astute Amazon. They are running a similar risk by allowing their eejit kindle fanboys to pollute the once valuable Amazon rankings.

Consider this extreme example: Of the 519 review of the The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, 87 are 1 star reviews. Nearly all of them are kiddies whining about the lack of a kindle version. Amazon apologized to Lewis, but left all the irrelevant 1 star reviews posted. (As benevolent dictator, I would impose capital punishment, but that’s just me).

Thus, I no longer waste my time reviewing products or sellers, as the Amazon review system has become corrupted. Its no longer worth my time. I have found myself paying less attention to Amazon reviews, as I now know they are written by eejit children, so their value is far less than I previously believed. Even worse, I know Amazon makes the kindle, so we have bad faith thrown into the mix.

We shall see if it impacts my shopping habits . . .

~~~

Question: What is the next valuable property to allow itself to be devalued will be? Who will somehow take an asset and turn it into a negative?

Category: Valuation, Web/Tech

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

72 Responses to “CrowdQuery: Why Do Companies like Yahoo Degrade & Implode?”

  1. Niskyboy says:

    “What (will be) the next valuable property to allow itself to be devalued? Uh, Congress?

  2. Chief Tomahawk says:

    ” … I use Yahoo Tech Ticker …”

    Hmmm….. The Big Picture previously identified an undervalued asset (was it deal maker?) and made a public offer. Based on Yahoo’s efforts to monetize whatever they can (hence all the ads), perhaps The Big Picture can make Yahoo! an offer to take the Tech Ticker off their hands? While they may reject the offer now, you never know when they’ll have a sale…

  3. chartist says:

    Three companies that seem to be managed for the good of the officers and to the detriment of shareholders: MSFT, CSCO and Intel.

  4. chartist says:

    Dell computer is an enigma in that it should have died years ago…..Michael Dell is not so much smart as he was incredibly lucky; talk about timing! This guy comes along just when the PC adoption S curve was going into its parabolic phase and he’s right there producing his IBM clones as they were known ….Alas, now the PC is at the top of the S, or the commodity phase, and Dell can no longer compete as they never were an innovator.

  5. NormanB says:

    Why do companies degrade and implode? Easy, they do not value the goodwill of their customers; they are run by bottom line bean counters. Thus, we have Eric Schmidt constantly denegrating his customers. (The customers don’t like our spy in the sky? Let them move.) We have the telephone, cable, airline, etc companies all having terrible telephone service and its near impossible to get recompense for their mistakes. Very frustrating. I hate them all and won’t even read their ‘deals’ because they obfuscate the restrictions and downsides.

    For example the airline companies charge you for changing your reservations. They get $3B per year for this penalty. (What smart company wants to penalize their own customers?) Then we have Southwest Air that allows you to cancel your reservation without penalty and gives you a full year to use the proceeds. SWA makes money, the rest don’t. Duh.

  6. Trevor says:

    Um, Microsoft has been doing a pretty good job of killing its brand for the past decade or two, and it’s getting better (ahem, worse) at it all the time…. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Kin, the Zune, Vista, etc., etc….. The blunders seem to get worse with time.

  7. louis says:

    Dell makes some pretty good servers, their support is great if you pay for it.

    Some companies are just a really big bright suns(Nike) and they either blow up or slowly fade away and get eaten by a giant black hole. Some become moons, they are pretty bland and will always be there. MSFT is a giant moon. Sometimes a person will land on a moon and make it a sun again.

  8. pcurve says:

    Chartist, throw in pretty much all the healthcare companies in that mix. Not only are they screwing their shareholders. They’re also screwing all their customers. Too bad these companies are too well connected to go kaput.

    I guess Yahoo board thought Carol Bartz would be the Alan Mulally of dotcom. Boy, is she robbing them blind. They’re probably really sorry that they didn’t jump at the chance to hire Mark Hurd. (If that thought even occured to them)

  9. Ebay.

    Getting 25% – 40% discount products on there was a breeze back in the early 00s. Now you have to navigate a minefield in order to feel the same way you feel coming out of a chain store (like you paid too much). If you are looking for something, Ebay might not even have it. It didn’t used to be that way. They have driven many sellers away and thus have lowered their marketable quality.

    Some kudos to their competitors. Many of them sell very close to what the hawkers sold for on Ebay. I don’t know if store prices came down or Ebay prices went up

  10. TakBak04 says:

    I don’t know what’s with Yahoo. They should have done better. I have used their “Portfolio Manager” for years and watch the market on “Financials”…just to check in. I use Yahoo Mail as my “indie address” and am happy with it…but in the last year they seem to be very “has been” in their content.

    I’m not sure what they can do…but whatever they are doing isn’t cutting it for going forward. Although, I’m happy with “My Yahoo” for the stuff I’ve always used it for.

    On Delta… A Frequent Flyer in my household has had terrible problems with Delta. On the eve of a big Med Products Meeting in Atlanta (where multiple meetings with Key Partners (Clients) in Venture were lined up… Our group was called around 10.00 p.m. the night before a 7 a.m. flight and told the Flight was CANCELLED! That left a scramble for our Business Group to try to get to Atlanta in time for the first meeting at 10:00 a.m.! After much ado…and phone calls..Partners found a USAIR flight to Atlanta that cost $500.00 from Raleigh to Atlanta (approx. a 6 hr. drive). The price was twice as much…but what could you do at (by that time) around Mid Night after all the phone calls back and forth with partners to get the whole thing worked out.

    Conclusion of Partners was that Delta cancelled the flight at last minute because they didn’t book enough and one partner decided to get in the car and drive the 6 hours because he didn’t want to pay the extra money…the rest used USAir and it worked out.

    It was a mess though. Tired Partners with stress having to deal with a 10:00 p.m call from Delta when a big presentation with Clients and scheduled appointments had been worked on for weeks?

    Not Good.

  11. Easyenough says:

    AAPL sure did look like a great brand slinking into a slow and ignoble decay. I still haven’t returned to AAPL products. Of course, there seems to have a turn around…

    Starbucks is a potential disaster. The brand strategy is a ponzi scheme of elitism: when there’s no one socially below you that isn’t going, the bottom will have to fall out – why go if everyone else can? Dried, reconstituted coffee? Really?

    Yahoo is really the one that takes the cake, though. Decent product and brand. They still have good finance content deals. But there’s very little exhilarating going on there and a media service needs at least 10% exhilarating. Google is still exhilarating.

  12. Also stumbled upon this site today:

    Digg downsizing — long overdue

    http://www.w3matter.com/journal/2010/10/25/digg-downsizing-long-overdue.html

    You might want to check out this guy’s writing Barry. You’d probably appreciate his style

  13. Heretic says:

    Wouldn’t the Wall Street Journal be at the top of the list? Or maybe you consider them devalued already. I still have my subscription, but it seems to get less and less attention.

    I have to disagree about Amazon, though. Using the book you gave as an example: One glance at the ratings graph and I see overwhelmingly positive reviews, with a big bump at the bottom in the one stars. I suspect I know what’s going on right away – and another half minute to click on the one star link and scan the reviews confirms my suspicions. The one stars are mostly idiots and ‘no kindle no stars’ fanboys. I can then click on the most helpful reviews link and learn about the product. Rather than censoring reviews by some mysterious process, Amazon has given me the tools to quickly filter the reviews for myself, which, to me, makes Amazon reviews more valuable.

  14. vachon says:

    As soon as Yahoo started to insult my intelligence and talk to me like Oprah/The View TV, I switched to Google. That was 3 or 4 years ago. I have no idea what they’re doing now and could not care less.

    CNN is again at the brink of disintegration and becoming The Tattler of cable news. Another one who thinks I have the attention span and IQ of a gnat.

  15. Tarkus says:

    RIMM. They looked into their future and they saw PALM.

  16. You mean besides Microsoft? Right?

  17. pintelho says:

    Ah…Tarkus beat me to it…RIMM…by refusing to put actual internet into their machines and even their email sucks…you can’t do much but type text with a RIMM

    the other….maybe Bank of America

  18. teraflop says:

    Yahoo’s messenger SPAM IM issue is solved (for me at least) with Trillian. I stopped using all the spam-laden captive IM products after I started seeing valuable inches of screenspace consumed by crap. Ergo they’re all still stuck on the old BS sticky-eyeball concept of EBITDA.

    Agree Yahoo’s Message Boards are an abomination. You used to be able to mine for info (or crap), trace threads, etc. Now supplanted by others, Investor’s Hub, Raging Bull, etc. which have some strength because there is human moderation. Yahoo has (had) enough money to sponsor some moderation but instead the sole upgrade was to the hierarchical format. Therefore I think they’re stuck on “managing” the Message Boards but not actually doing anything about it. A severe case of triple-deep layers relying on cheap outsourced bodies that possibly don’t even speak English, hence a disregard for content in messages.

    In my former career the movers & shakers were so proud of their Not Invented(or Built) Here attitude that it became part of the culture. Entire ideas, patentable concepts, implementations, etc. were tossed to eager consultants’ hands in an effort to remain asset-light. In the long run all they became is light-headed, throwing their professionals to the far winds as well.

    A long road downhill awaits Yahoo. To be even considered on a par with AOL is an indication of how low they have fallen. There is no hope for them, they lost track of the differentiating assets.

    That all being said, Yahoo is my default email for non-transactional relationships. I use My Yahoo page with RSS feeds to consolidate all my interests.

  19. mavenwatch says:

    Yahoo. its sad. One of the most loved sites tried to go Hollywood with Terry Semel et al and now some Autodesk exec is supposed to have a clue? I still use mail and finance but as you say the message boards were once useful but once they went to heirarchal style they took away the conversational flow of the dialogue. It is all about customer service and most of these tech spawned companies do not have a clue that is what is important.

  20. hammerandtong2001 says:

    Funny you mentioned YHOO stock message boards.

    From 1999-2002 I followed various posters religiously. One was a well-known NY-based hedge guy: deep value long, usually take-outs on issues trading sub cash value. I made a killing on USAD, NTRO, BVEW and bunch of others.

    As you point out the boards were over-run with trash, spam, and more — making any visits there worthless.

    YHOO had a platform; it was squandered away. I haven’t been there in — a few years.

    Whoever ran YHOO Finance simply did not understand the market they played in, or the value prop they offered.

    .

  21. philipat says:

    Goldman Sachs? PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAse

  22. 1es says:

    Facebook.

    Between the useless quiz updates from all of those people from high school that you never spoke with anyway and the intermittent hacking and spamming from one’s own account Facebook is heading down the yahoo path to irrelevance. They need to sell fast before they become myspace.

  23. dmsths says:

    Sorry Barry,

    I have to side with the eejits on this one. I’m a huge fan, but even so I wouldn’t buy or read Bailout Nation if it weren’t available on a convenient digital format (Audible, Kindle, perhaps iBook). There is plenty of content that is available in digital form to waste my time with paper content. If an author is too Luddite or desperate to be able to find a publisher that will publish to modern formats, and chooses not to self-publish, sorry, that counts against the product in my book.

    Now of course you could say I should simply not buy the book, and perhaps if Amazon made their default search options to only include digital content, I might agree, but it’s extremely annoying to come across a book that’s not available in a modern format in 2010.

    In any event, soon enough paper books will go the way of 8 tracks and LPs and this will cease to be a controversy.

    ~~~

    BR: As an author, you have exactly zero say in when the kindle or ebook version is available. That is the publisher’s choice, authors don’t get a say. We don’t review movie based on when they come to DVD; To rate the author’s book based on a publisher’s decision is simply wrong.

  24. uglyowl says:

    Professional sports. The kids aren’t as interested as they used to be and I think there will be problems down the road as they grow up. The threat of NBA and NFL lockouts next year are another threat.

  25. jad714 says:

    The problem with yahoo is it didn’t follow google in its development process. It will never match that level at this point.

    http://www.philstockworld.com

  26. brianinla says:

    Youtube: in two years you’ll have to watch 3 commercials to see a video

  27. Roger Bigod says:

    Delta is from around here, and it’s just tragic. They started as a crop dusting operation out of Monroe LA, then got the idea of hauling folks around in the off season. They finally went big time on us and moved to Atlanta, but people still took great local pride in them. And they lived up to it — the suthun drawl hospitality thing, which only works if you actually give great service, and they did. And they always kept their schedules without overbooking. But all the airlines used to be that way.

    It went to hell fairly fast, as corporate matters go. Most of the mystique was there 15 years ago. If you could get the real story, it would probably make a good B School case study.

    The same thing happened at Dell. Their reputation for customer service was a huge asset. Then some exec decided to outsource it to a cheapo operation. All the reps were named Steve and spoke in Indian accents. More importantly, they were incompetent. Apple outsources some support to India, but the reps are trained up to parity with North America.

  28. gcomp says:

    I read this article on Google Reader. Attached to it, as is the case with all the articles in the Big Picture feeds, was an ad. In this case, it was an ad for an internet service to find insurance. The service was provided by (and of course the ad was paid for by) Yahoo.

    I actually reloaded the reader to see if it was a joke, but an ad for some other nonsense popped up the second time. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth. It’s a new age, there are so many bloggers and news sources on the internet that firms can’t keep track of their ads. Apparently, they can’t even tell if they’re advertising in an article whose title states in a matter-of-fact manner that the firm itself is degrading and imploding.

  29. Captain Jack says:

    This is an interesting question. What happens if you flip it around, though, and consider it from an entropy perspective?

    Randomness tends to increase, not decrease. The energy of the universe tends to get dispersed. Via the second law of thermodynamics, you cannot decrease entropy in one place without increasing it somewhere else.

    How does this relate to Yahoo, or any other company? Simple: Being a great company is hard. To become great and stay great, you have to fight hard against entropic forces. It is much easier to simply drift into crappiness. But for lack of focused and sustained leadership, all companies would be crappy. And companies that temporarily became great by accident, or had greatness thrust upon them without understanding it, are far more likely to revert back to crap.

    Yahoo, like Microsoft, enjoyed a tremendous outlier of timing and success many years ago, and has coasted on the inertia from that success ever since. But, lacking leadership, it has been unable to build on it. The total entropy in Yahoo has been increasing, not decreasing, because there has been no sustained leadership vision to fight that entropy.

    Another way to think of it is to see all great companies like big sand hills in a mostly flat landscape. Normal entropic forces — wind, compaction, erosion etc — tend to grind those hills down. If you get a really huge hill (via outlier combinations of timing and chance), the grind-down process can take a while.

    So maybe another way to rephrase the inquiry is, “What STOPS once great companies from degrading and imploding.” The answer being coherent vision, strong leadership, and a dedication to core principles that gave the company a sustainable competitive advantage in the first place.

  30. Captain Jack says:

    p.s. Typo correction: “But for focused and sustained leadership, all companies would be crappy.”

  31. perra says:

    Thanks for brining the Amazon rating problem to people’s attention! While I haven’t written any books, I am frustrated, as a consumer, that you cannot rely on the once awesome Amazon ratings system. The only way to use these ratings now is to read them one by one and figure out what is legitimate and what is not. I can just imagine how frustrating this must be for authors.

    There are viable solutions to these virtual vandalism issues. For example, I once posted a very negative (1-star) review about a 5-star hotel in China on Tripadvisor.com. Hotel Management got in touch with Tripadvisor to challenge the review or to have it removed. Trip advisor sent me an email with a link that I had to confirm in order to keep the negative review and rating online. Since I did indeed have a 1-star experience, I went through the trouble of logging in and confirming my review. Just a simple system like that would remove a lot of the junk on Amazon.com.

  32. perra says:

    To answer your questions: Why Do Companies like Yahoo Degrade & Implode? A key reason Yahoo is failing is that, as you have pointed out, their efforts to monetize traffic is having a negative impact on user experience. It’s just that simple; you answered your own question. Compare this too Google. Google could have made a helluva lot more money in the short term if they had used half of the crap Yahoo is implementing. They don’t; not because they are not evil, but because it’s bad business.

  33. JerseyCynic says:

    companies like yahoo – the “stuff” they produce — ?just fads? what DO they produce? I’ve never used yahoo so I’ve never had any association/attachment to it.

    let’s see
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080918115917AAJVEAN

    What does yahoo! produce, and how does it generate revenue?
    2 years agoBest Answer – Chosen by Voters

    “Yahoo sells ad space as well as top listing in their search engines. they also sponsor events which makes them money they are a publicly shared company and share on the stock market. yahoo doesnt really do anything excpet maintain its netwrok and collect money from pople trying to seel you stuff.”

    nuff said

    people get bored so quickly today, especially the young. what’s next? what’s next? what’s next?

    people also don’t really like change either, at least most older folks don’t (the ones with the money)

  34. JerseyCynic says:

    also, is Yahoo poised to enter the new “Cloud Computing” frontier?

    http://www.rackspacecloud.com/blog/2010/09/14/the-future-of-cloud-computing-the-big-25-in-the-next-25/

    I’m glad I’ll be up in the clouds (or on my way) in 25 years.

    Christ who can keep up? no wonder ADD/ADHD is so prevalent. (I think I acquired it about the time I started going on the net)

  35. JohnathanStein says:

    EBAY. Try to get hold of Customer Service. You can’t get a phone number or an email. The listed Corporate numbers require a code number to connect. Click on “Contact Us” and you won’t even be able speak to someone from India — all you get is just a “type your question” or pick from a list of pre-determined answers.

    The ONLY way I found to was a sneaky one — you have to pick “I think someone has accessed by account” from the pre-determined list, then you can try either phone or IM.

    * The phone was on hold for over an hour — I left it on speakerphone; it eventually was disconnected by Ebay.

    * Then tried IM — the “status” message said I was #14 in queue, with a 17 minute wait. These numbers bounced around on my 2nd screen for over two (2) hours. Finally someone came online, so I described the problem and — wait for it — he said he only handled Account Security problems, but would transfer the IM. It disconnected.

    It’s one thing to be rude, but for a company to go to such extreme lengths to deliberately make customer contact impossible? Beyond fantastic — just utterly incredible!

    FAIL.

  36. Greg0658 says:

    can’t help but follow up JSteins with …. umm maybe capitalism .. when you feel the fail – go after taxpayer support .. but not sure what _ism category that puts Meg Whitman in tho *

    ps – Cpt Jack .. good post .. stuck in Yhoo? .. isn’t it the AT&Ts email server .. now I see from a wiki search Verizon too .. so the old Bell masters email server
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahoo!

    * that should be an interesting race for the world .. silicon valley gots ta get it mojo back **
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon_Valley
    ** and thats kinda scary

  37. jedwards says:

    I used to work at Yahoo, right around the time of the MSFT debacle.

    Yahoo was filled with self-entitled brats and bloated, lazy managers, both of whome didn’t want to work hard. I can’t even begin to explain how lazy the employees of Yahoo were. No one worked, but everyone played foosball. I was there for 18 months, and I rarely worked, which I why I left shortly after Jerry rejected the MSFT offer.

    The problem is that Yahoo is/was completely dependent on ad revenue, and if they were going to miss their numbers, they would stuff more ads onto the homepage to bridge the gap. There were several instances of innovation being curtailed because it would bring in less ad revenue/clicks, so they kept the status quo.

    The infrastructure was incredible poor, basically running off dozens of scripts that hadn’t been touched in years. It was shocking how primitive most of the infrastructure was. But because everything “worked”, no one wanted to spend the money to develop an infrastructure that would give us a competitive advantage against our competitors, so it languished while the maintainers played foosball.

    They key mistake was hiring Terry Semel, who knew nothing about technology and tried unsuccessfully to change Yahoo into a media company instead of keeping the culture of a technology company. They stopped innovating, and lost mindshare and the will to work hard and produce good products that people want to use.

  38. MOIDALIZE says:

    Scott Adams’ once said (I’m paraphrasing) that any company that stays in business for any appreciable amount of time possesses something, either an asset, or a process, or intellectual property, or whatever, that allows it to keep chugging along, despite the efforts of whatever group of incompetent boobs happens to be running it. If they lose that “something,” there’s not much reason for them to continue existing.

    What does Yahoo! offer that another company isn’t providing a comparable or better version of? Who still uses their search? How many people who began using the internet in the last 5 years have a Yahoo homepage or email? I think the “something” they had was the same thing the other dot-com bubble survivors had: a first mover advantage. They were around for all the easy Wall Street money and got big enough to entrench themselves.

    I think the recording industry as a whole is a prime example. Their rigid product offerings and sense of entitlement drove a good chunk of their customers to seek out a better alternative (and free to boot). Their solution was to sue their customers and slander them as pirates, never mind all the years they colluded to keep the price of CDs artificially high. Compare their approach to the software industry approach. I bet in 10 years they’ll still be making CDs, yet physical copies of software will be rare or nonexistent.

  39. mdanda says:

    I’ve started to lose interest in economics blogs. I feel like nothing is really happening (yet everything is happening). I guess I’m more of a “forest” guy and there is too much talk about “trees”.

  40. The U.S. dollar is a brand which runs the risk of being corrupted…..through the unrestrained creation of yet more U.S. dollars….

    Among companies – keep an eye on Facebook, it is astonishing how quickly it ursurped MySpace, however, ubiquitity breeds uncoolness….

  41. [...] of this brings me to an interesting article by Barry Ritholz at the Big Picture today about why companies implode.  Some of the things he says reminded me of [...]

  42. Chad says:

    @dmsths
    Complaining about not having an electronic version of the book in the reviews for the book would be like complaining about Exxon gasoline on the Ford website. Sure Ford’s vehicles use gasoline, but they have no control over Exxon. Amazon would gladly have a Kindle version for every book…it’s just not their call. So, yes, you are an idiot.

    Maybe not the very next company to go AOL/Yahoo on us, but Facebook has a good chance of making some serious misteps as they try to expand.

  43. ACS says:

    Well if Amazon implodes, the stock certainly has the P/E to make it spectacular.

  44. JerseyCynic says:

    mdanda Says:

    I’ve started to lose interest in economics blogs. I feel like nothing is really happening (yet everything is happening). I guess I’m more of a “forest” guy and there is too much talk about “trees”.

    Ditto. Ditto. and DITTO

    RE: “the facebook” – if it can manage to hold it’s own until we’re up in the clouds, maybe it will survive. If we do eventually take education completely into the digital world, social networking will be huge, don’t you think? gotta have some means of interacting with people. or maybe not. maybe by then we’ll all be sick of each other!

    http://www.rackspacecloud.com/blog/2010/09/14/the-future-of-cloud-computing-the-big-25-in-the-next-25/
    ———————–
    7. Education for the world.

    A few years ago, MIT created a site called MITOpenCourseware to offer course lecture videos and notes online, free for everyone. It had great promise and hype, but it does not offer the texts or materials that are needed to truly learn a subject. The costs of education have skyrocketed, and recently, student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt in America. There is no need for the antiquated system of higher education to continue in the digital information age.

    All of the materials and recorded lectures to get you from Freshman to PhD could easily be stored and accessed on the cloud for less than the cost of a single textbook. These resources will become more available and will make education an inexpensive global commodity. Want to learn to be a computer engineer? There will be a website for that.
    ———————-

    Although — on the other hand I think as with myspace, I see the novelty is now waning with face book. At least with my 20 and 21-year-olds it is. Maybe that comes with age? Or maybe my constant ridiculing of them whenever I see them on it.

    I don’t know. I just set one up with the intent to fundraise for the music department. as easy as 1,2,3. That’s as far as I got though. I freaked out when all of a sudden I was greeted with a crap load of names and pictures of “people you might want to add as friends” . Apparently, it knows EVERY PERSON YOU HAVE EVER EMAILED
    who has a facebook. NO THANK YOU! I’ll go on whitepages.com and make a few calls.

    I guess I’m a true luddite. I still have my IMB selectric and can whip something out at 90 wpm

  45. rktbrkr says:

    I’ve noticed retailers definitely have a pretty short life span, they lose their mojo and fade away

    Monkey Ward (acquired by Mobil and killed)

    Korvettes, Masters, Caldors and a half dozen other NY metro retailers

    Macy’s

    Gimbels

    Sears

    Kmart

  46. bergsten says:

    @JerseyCynic — fundraising for music department — you might consider The Point — a website dedicated to supporting online fundraising.

  47. JerseyCynic says:

    “they want to get on facebook to communicate with the rest of the world”

    GREAT INTERVIEW:
    Nicholas Negroponte wants to give laptop computers to children in third-world countries so they can communicate with the rest of the world.

    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/363111/october-25-2010/nicholas-negroponte

    while humans are busy in the clouds, I guess the robots will have to do most of the work

  48. Morphieus says:

    Comcast. Have you ever seen a company where the product is inconsistent (different from one locale to the next), the customer service is this bad, and the product is this expensive? Can you say Roku, Google, or Apple TV? They’ll be sent to “dumb pipe-ville” in no time.

  49. mavenwatch says:

    Delta: flight delayed due to mechanical problems. Got to destination (NYC) late so missed connection. No one available at gate to help (ie get hotel and reservations for connecting flight next day). Waited two hours in line with my fellow passengers (one guy in front of me called Delta Platinum or whatver on cell and got no satisfaction & decided to bail and get his own hotel) to get hotel voucher and plane reservations. It was near midnite and July 3 , but no sense of immediacy among employess. Delta knew when our plane took off for nyc and had four hours to prepare for this. Wrote them pointing out how they could hve turnd this to their advantage by expediting at the abandoned customer service desk near arrival gate (ie mechanical problems happen, its how you then take advantage of problem and turn it to your advantage) with the givng out of hotel vouchers and plane changes. Reply was not satisfactory.

  50. midasw says:

    Great minds work alike. When the Big Short was first published I went to AMZ out of curiosity and was astonished to see roughly 90 5-star reviews and roughly 90 1-star reviews. All but three of the latter were complaints about the book not being on Kindle. I dined out on this factoid for the last three months. I like my Kindle, but the publisher of my last book hates AMZ and won’t go for a Kindle version. Stupid, almost as stupid as the one-star reviews.
    MM Thomas

  51. JerseyCynic says:

    bergsten – thank you so much for the link. looks interesting.

    Hey, I look forward to participating in the total anarchy over at your new place!

    I think the internet is the finest example of anarchy we have

    “Anarchism does not mean bloodshed; it does not mean robbery, arson, etc. These monstrosities are, on the contrary, the characteristic features of capitalism. Anarchism means peace and tranquility to all.” –August Spies, Haymarket anarchist

  52. Ny Stock Guy says:

    Sometimes I think that great companies, like great countries, tend to go from great to crappy because the leaders and the citizens, once they get on top, tend to become fat, lazy, selfish, and complacent.

    Roman Empire, USA, Yahoo… etc, etc

  53. PDonny2 says:

    I could see Facebook going the way of MySpace. Facebook used to be for college students only and I believe your school had to be signed up for it as well, there were certain schools who weren’t on it. Then they let high school students create accounts and I can remember a lot of college kids complaining about that at the time. They kept removing restrictions until we arrived at the point where anyone that wanted an account could create one. I always thought that when my mother created an account, that would be the end of facebook. She friended me a couple of weeks ago. Not sure what will replace facebook, but I never could have imagined not using AOL Instant Messanger (AIM) and I haven’t logged on in years and I don’t know anyone that uses that anymore. Something will be created, and will be the next big thing. I think facebook is still the best way to share pictures online, but even that has become less popular, as people are concerned about employers or coworkers, etc. seeing pictures of them.
    As for Yahoo, the only thing I think they do better than anyone else is Fantasy Sports. They have the most simple, easy-to-use interface of any site. Fantasy sports could be a huge opportunity for them, as it seems like even non sports fans are playing and many people are in multiple leagues. Plus users stay on the site for a long time when they do log on. Yahoo has a premium stat-tracker which some people are willing to pay for and there are some ads on the homepage as well; for example there’s the “Toyota Greatest Victory” each week that shows the team that lost by the biggest margin. As far as search, email, even homepage, I think they’ve been overtaken by Google and won’t ever come back.

  54. wrongway says:

    I only fly Southwest. The first time I tried them, I thought – Here is the future of the airline industry. I assumed that all of the other airlines would adopt (steal) their business model. Now, many years later NOBODY has copied them despite the abysmal track records of virtually all other airlines. I find this extraordinary – that an industry would persist with a failing business model while one competitor plainly uses a different model that succeeds.

  55. Papa Weedwhip says:

    My first comment -woohoo!

    Paul Graham writes interesting essays – here is a link to his essay on Yahoo

    http://www.paulgraham.com/yahoo.html

    He sold his company to Yahoo and worked there for a while, and seems to know of what he speaks.

  56. bergsten says:

    @JerseyCynic — thanks — nice to know I haven’t alienated everybody.

  57. ashpelham2 says:

    NY Stock Guy is right: just about every example given so far has the same thing in common: incompetent leadership that comes in and just sits around. No one is innovating, no one is trying to get better. Why? Because that takes work, and TALENT.

    Quick word about me: I used to believe that I was a pretty hard worker. My dad worked like a slave, and instilled that into me. Above all else, be a hard worker, and you will get ahead. So I carried that with me into every job I had. As a KMart shelve stocker and grocery cart getter, to a shoe salesman at McRae’s, to a supply delivery guy at The University of Alabama. When I finally got my first real, paying job, I kept on working hard, working long hours, and getting rewarded for it. This was late 90′s.

    Then the 00′s happened, and I was laid off 4 times in 8 years. Different employers, always the same reason: downsizing. I was usually low on the totem pole. Last in, first out. Couldn’t get out of it.

    Now, my work ethic sucks because I don’t see it making any difference whether I’ll eat or starve. Perhaps that is the problem with the upper execs at all the near-death companies listed here; they don’t see any more or less reward for doing a great job versus doing a poor job. Stock prices aren’t necessarily always tied to specific performance, but rather sector (or robot trading algos), so stock options that tie to company performance are largely NOT tied to job performance. Salaries are rediculously high, for people who’ve run other companies into the ground nevertheless…

    And so, my generation and the one under mine, the Millenials, and the Gen Yers, would prefer to see if they can get famous doing something, rather than go into a rank and file company, work hard, improve the business, and be rewarded for it.

  58. Captain Jack says:

    By the way, for a thoughtful inside take on Yahoo specifically, this piece from Paul Graham — whose startup was acquired by Yahoo for $45 million in stock — is pretty good:

    http://www.paulgraham.com/yahoo.html

  59. Darkness says:

    I still use amazon for tools and appliances, at least to look at the reviews and check prices. Nothing like reading others’ experience with that sort of purchase.

    Their book recommender system got horrible long ago so I gave up on them for that long before any changes to the reviews.

    But Yahoo’s decline is not recent. At all. Five years ago when they cobbled together all the different properties they had acquired under one banner but not under one experience . . . for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how they were staying in business then. I had a friend with a domain on their system and they asked me to edit the settings for them. Took me a half an hour and three different logins to find the right place and then don’t get me started about the idiot interface to make the changes. The East German Politburo would have shed tears of jealousy over the crazy maze of hoops one had to go through to find the right form to fill out. They have since fixed this a bit, of course, I looked in the old place and it was gone and had to start over again in figuring it out. But it was a ten minute process and only one login, which was a vast improvement.

    Yahoo had about a 3 year heyday after being a university project and as soon as they started advertising on tv, that marked the start of the long slide.

  60. formerlawyer says:

    As to Yahoo’s advertising, consider the “annoyance factor”. As a further example, look to the New York Times efforts to monetize their online version.
    see:
    http://www.thoughtgadgets.com/2010/10/tragedy-of-new-york-times-commons.html

    Apple is another corporation that nearly lost its way after Scully became CEO and only revived once Steve Jobs took over. It remains an open issue as to what can happen after Jobs is gone.

    Finally, perhaps it is more a transitional issue. For example, Microsoft’s recent performance which can arguably be laid at Baumer’s feet.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=11980981

    The commonality between these cases is the lack of a consistent, coherent appreciation of what fundamental business the corporation is involved in.

    Apple – consumer electronics
    Microsoft-?

    Another may be what I would refer to managementitis where MBAs believe they can transfer their “insight” and management ability between widget makers, advertising, computers, car manufacture (Mercedes in the early 2000s anyone) without regard to the nature of the business. This leads to cost cutting whether in R&D or service or whatever.

    So much so that the underlying model gets distorted and customers depart.

  61. JerseyCynic says:

    In the race to improve improve improve, especially in technology — it has outpaced the knowledge of the users.

    I’ve kind of gone in pause mode now because I know so much of what I spend my money on now, I will have to replace again, and again, and again. I wish everything would slow down (except maybe cancer research?) for a decade or two so we can catch up.

    I remember when the cars started going all electronic with all the gizmos and gadgets. I couldn’t bring my new car to my local mechanic anymore because the car was now smarter than him. Too complicated for him (you needed all kinds of computer analysis done first) so off to the dealer I was forced to go…

    I just thought of a recent article I read

    WHAT IS THE WORLD’S MOST PERFECT PRODUCT??
    (I’m sure all you bookworms might all agree on this one)
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2010/08/11/notes081110.DTL
    By the master himself MARK MORFORD:

    It’s the book!

    “Think about it. It hasn’t been fundamentally improved upon for 1,000 years. Few other products in the world match it for reach and purity of function. It’s cheap, transportable, sharable. It’s immersive, transformative, offers universal and timeless appeal across all nationalities, religions, races, creeds, politics, classes, education levels. No other product you can name matches the book across the efficiency/cost/intimacy/experience matrix. It’s flawless.

    So of course, we have to kill it.

    Or rather, progress does….”

    does amazon make more of it’s money from online reading material or real books?

  62. Schnormal says:

    I use Amazon just for the “Look Inside” feature, the reviews (sort of), and to store my wish list. When I decide to actually buy a book i purchase it from Powell’s.

  63. jmccas says:

    MSFT? That is just a lazy suggestion. MSFT has enough cash and residual revenue to basically shut the doors, do nothing, and still be around for 20 years. Companies like MSFT do not produce the profits like they do if they are slowing going out of biz.

    I fully agree that MSFT has had some major missteps over the past few years (Vista, IE6, Kin, Windows Mobile 6, etc.) but they are learning from their past failures. Vista has turned into Windows 7 which moved 240MM copies in one year. IE6 has turned into IE9 (which is actually great) and has had over 1MM downloads of the BETA version. Kin – well that was a classic FUBAR that cost the company $250MM. But you know what? MSFT turned around and sold $200MM worth of their HALO Reach game in ONE day. WinMo 6…has turned into Windows Phone 7 which looks to be a promising product. I think you should also not forget about Bing, Office 365, Azure, etc. The point is at least MSFT learns from their mistakes and unlike companies that fail, does not ignore them.

    From a user perspective, I moved from MSFT services a few years ago around the time Vista and IE6 were released. MSFT has me back again.

  64. Rescission says:

    Per BR: “The airline relentlessly cut costs to the point that if you need customer service, suicide is a preferable option. Delta has the lowest passenger satisfaction, highest flight delays, and highest baggage fees in the industry.
    I understand their suckiness, I get that its actually a cost savings program the company puts into place between bankruptcies.”

    I disagree totally and here’s why:

    It’s not about cost cuts. Southwest has low costs yet great employee morale and loyal customers. The prior SW Airlines CEO was asked how they have such good customer service. He said “because instead of focusing on customer service, we focus on our employees and making sure we treat them great. They love working here because of it, thus great customer service is simply an outpouring of how they feel about their own company”.
    Delta and USAir employees hate their own company, thus they hate their customers, and it shows.
    Rude flight attendants aren’t rude simply because of cost cuts.

  65. Greg0658 says:

    hey JerseyCynic – horses may get a comeback – maybe why riding stables are on the increase around here – it’d be fun too for the freeks & geeks & simpletons

    CNBC started running off this thread this morning for filler .. I find myself yellin at the full size tv screen .. some chip pile pusher is claiming Microsoft is toast .. ya right – like people are going small screen totally (in your roam world) .. maybe he’s pissed that they aren’t doing enough to coax pile pushing / or paying enough interest on cash stuck in the corporate coffers for his well being (well I’ll buy that) … shoulda loaned them money thru bonds / not stock .. but toast – try and get real ya lousy salesman sellin a lousy product … as far as lousy Windows .. ya got to admit they IBM & Apple reformed (or upturned) the world … all of them TBTFight (probably so)

  66. Lord says:

    The upside of the downside is looking at spam can tell you something. I noticed receiving much spam about Stanford before they were closed down. I now figure if they have to resort to that, they won’t be around much longer.

  67. isolde100 says:

    I am tempted to say LVMH (the holding company of Louis Vuitton and several other luxury brands). They are milking brands like Louis Vuitton and Fendi to death by designing the ugliest bags and shoes with huge, tacky logos and selling them all over the world. Their last stop: Asia, Russia and Brazil. Once those people get sick and tired of the expensive hideous crap pumped out by Vuitton, LVMH will sink like a rock.

    Although . . . last week, they got a 14% interest in the last of the true luxury brands around – Hermes. Once they control Hermes, it will be the END of that company. All the other luxury groups are in the same position – PPR (which owns Gucci) and Dior. Having seen Dior’s and Gucci’s race to equal Vuitton in hideousness this season, all I can say is they’re on the same road to ruin. It might not happen as quickly as Yahoo’s decline since there are enough people with money and no taste to milk in this world, but it will happen probably within 5-10 years.

  68. JerseyCynic says:

    GREG — I can’t wait! really

    and with all this airline talk I have to plunk this video link here — I’m sure many of you have seen it.

    Everything’s Amazing & Nobody’s Happy
    Louis C.K.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk

  69. wildebeest says:

    I haven’t flown Delta but it would have to suck big time to out-suck American Airlines. I tend to agree with jmccas about MSFT although Bing is surely a failure …or will be.

  70. Captain Jack says:

    @JerseyCynic, re, books:

    As someone who reads two dozen books a year, my take is physical books will never die (or rather be killed off). The medium just has too much aesthetic value. There is just something wonderful about the tactile sensations of the printed page.

    Same thing with pen and paper. My workday is all about keyboards and screens, but I will never stop jotting down notes on index cards and legal pads. The more “digital” the world becomes, the more valuable the old analog experience becomes as a small dose of contrast.

    With that said, technology will almost certainly transform the traditional book business. The coolest idea I’ve heard is a kiosk or store counter where you order the physical books you want and, instead of being shipped from some warehouse, they are printed and bound on the spot in 30 minutes or less.

    And in that line, the book publishing business on the whole is a great candidate for degrading and imploding. Talk about a screwed up racket plagued with inefficiencies and legacy issues.

    As technology moves us closer to “on demand” JIT manufacturing for the printed word, the logic of remainder titles and print runs and all that other stuff will disappear. I still wonder at the Borders / Barnes & Noble models too. They are fun to browse in on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but they might as well be giant coffee shops.

  71. JerseyCynic says:

    Oh Captain Jack you are most insightful

    (the bed bugs will probably shut the “coffee houses” down)