Making presumptions and using technology as a general solution does not always work for everyone. In business as in life, even parity does not exist.
Compared to Google, Yahoo has limited resources. In order to compete effectively, they had to manage their time and energy effectively. They assessed what the general client base wanted and positioned themselves with a plan based on their assessment.
Having paid heed to the advantages of my plans, the general must create situations (strategic advantage) which will contribute to their accomplishment. By 'situations' I mean that he should act expediently in accordance with what is advantageous and so control the balance. - Art of War 1 (Griffith Translation)
Google has a general philosophy of "Technology is everything and the users make the individual choice of what they want to use." Overall, Google has the resources to overwhelm any competitor and feel no urgency to change. They will stay with their belief of a general technology-driven solution that enables the users to make their choice.
Currently web statistics show that Yahoo is ahead of Google in the arena of financial information. Whether they can beat Google on the long run is debatable.
It is a contest where one's killer app can be duplicated in less than nine months.
Following are three questions for the readers:
- Do you assess before you plan?
- What is your approach for assessing?
- Based on your assessment, how do you define your goal?
August 23, 2009
Where Yahoo Leaves Google in the Dust
By RANDALL STROSS
GOOGLE has an outsize image as the deft master of information. Its superior technology seems to pitilessly grind up its rivals. But Google’s domination in search has proved hard for it to match in some information domains. When serving financial news and information, for example, Yahoo draws 17.5 times the traffic of Google, according to comScore Media Metrix.
Yahoo Finance, which has occupied the top spot in the category for 19 consecutive months, drew 21.7 million unique United States visitors in July; Google Finance drew only 1.2 million unique visitors, placing it 17th in comScore’s rankings for the category, one slot above a site called FreePressRelease.com.
Yahoo understands that information about money — a user’s own money — presents some tricky psychological issues. James Pitaro, vice president of Yahoo’s audience group, said, “In our research with users, we found that the more information that was displayed on the page, the greater the anxiety.”
He said Yahoo deliberately adopted what he calls “the Apple model — simplicity in design; a clean, simple look, not overburdening our users with too much information on the page.”
Google seems to pay no heed to such psychology. Google Finance, which was introduced in 2006 and shed its “beta” label earlier this year, hews to its original strategy: offer the best data and charts. And when that doesn’t work, offer still more data and charts.
Yahoo Finance is organized into sections: investing; news and opinion; personal finance; customized portfolio tracking; and “Tech Ticker,” short video features that have supplied an average of 450,000 streams a day in recent months, Yahoo says. When you click on a link to a news story accompanied by a Tech Ticker video, it starts automatically and seems intended to insert a warm human presence on the page. The video player is on one side of the page and is stationary; the visitor scrolls down on the other side to read news articles.
“It’s made for multitasking,” Mr. Pitaro said.
About 5 percent of the finance site’s information is original, he said, though his group is looking at ways to increase that to about 10 percent, matching the proportion on Yahoo Sports.
Mr. Pitaro credited Yahoo’s home page with sending traffic to Yahoo Finance.
“We have a great relationship with the front-page team to identify topics we should cover,” he said. An example of a “featured” story found last week on Yahoo’s front page: “Where Rich Singles Live,” accompanied by a picture of an attractive young woman smiling at the camera while pulling papers out of a briefcase. A click whisked the interested reader to Yahoo Finance.
Google does not use the mostly empty home page of the mothership to let visitors know that it has a finance site — some may not even know it exists. (To reach it, a user must click on the word “more” at the top of the home page.) But Google’s finance site offers something rather basic that Yahoo doesn’t: free real-time price quotations obtained directly from the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.
Over at Yahoo, the price quotations come from the BATS Exchange, an electronic equity exchange. A Yahoo spokeswoman said that in terms of accuracy and speed, its data “are very close to that from the larger exchanges, and for the average investor, the differences would hardly be noticeable.” (In my side-by-side comparison, the BATS quote on Yahoo for “YHOO” usually lagged Nasdaq’s on Google by a minute.)
If Yahoo customers would like the quotations directly from the two largest United States exchanges, they must pay Yahoo $10.95 or $13.95 a month for the privilege of getting the same data that Google offers free.
Among all visitors to Yahoo Finance who are referred by another site, 47.8 percent came from another Yahoo property, according to comScore’s data for July. Only 28.8 percent of Google Finance visitors came from another Google property. (As for MSN Money, which holds third place, 72.7 percent came from other Microsoft sites.)
Compare the total United States traffic on all Google sites with the total on all of Yahoo’s and you’ll see that Google edged past Yahoo last year to take the overall lead. Since then, Google has stayed on top, though with only a slim advantage, according to comScore. So finance is an important category that allows Yahoo to remain neck-and-neck with Google over all.
Yahoo Finance is not just coasting, either: it enjoyed 12 percent growth in traffic from July 2008 to July 2009, while Google Finance’s traffic grew by only 3 percent.
GOOGLE has not adopted the features that Yahoo uses to create a more appealing look and feel for a finance site. While Google also provides news and portfolio tracking, it doesn’t have its own videos or columnists.
Invited to show off features that differentiated Google’s site from Yahoo’s, Ayan Mandal, a Google product manager, pointed to new charting tools, called “Technicals. Added this summer, they allow users to analyze stock prices over time with 12 technical formulas.
It seems unlikely, however, that Google’s new tools — whose metrics include one called the Fast Stochastic Oscillator — will do as much for building traffic as a fluffy news story or a short video featuring talking heads. Yahoo understands that a free finance site prospers by drawing less from the world of mathematics and more from the world of entertainment, informing just enough to satisfy users without setting off an anxiety attack.
Randall Stross is an author based in Silicon Valley and a professor of business at San Jose State University. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.