Yahoo’s Bartz: Yahoo Can’t Do What Facebook Does--Yet

Yahoo’s CEO Carol Bartz says she would like her company to do what Facebook does, if only it could.

Facebook follows its users in their travels around the Web, customizing content for them, and collecting data about where they go. When asked at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco if Yahoo would do the same thing, Bartz said simply, “we could.” But she also said that Yahoo has to learn to organize user data better before it works on creating an overarching user profile as Facebook has done. “We can do what you talking about after we get our own house in order.”

Bartz says that Yahoo has also collected a ton of data on its own users. But, she says, her company is unable to use that data in the way that Facebook does (to customize content and target ads) because Yahoo’s user data is in not collected all in one place.

Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz.

Bartz explained that Yahoo’s various properties, like Sports or Travel or Finance, have always collected their data in their own silos, separate from the data collected by other properties.

This is exactly what Yahoo wants to do to increase its value and relevance in the future. “We can help people optimize their ads and optimize their content.” Translation: Yahoo wants to do more than just make sure that its customers ads are seen by the right people; it wants to help publishers put their content in front of the right people.

This could be Yahoo’s future, if it can consolidate its user data--and if it isn’t acquired by a private equity firm, or Microsoft or AOL. Bartz wouldn't comment on any of these strategic possibilities.

Facebook has grown a huge database containing data about the identification, friends, and preferences data of all its users. This information can be used to help its Web publisher partners tailor content to Facebookers as they travel the web, as well as to better target ads to them. In short, it’s very valuable information, especially because it contains such personal information.

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