Category Archives: The Media Landscape

Brief Note on Bartz’ Yahoo Ouster

I haven’t had much to say on Yahoo for a while, and I won’t be prolix in discussing the ouster of Carol Bartz as the company’s CEO yesterday. She apparently was relieved of her executive duties on a telephone call from the company’s chairman, Roy Bostock, and she promptly shared that fact with Yahoo staff in a brief, presumably valedictory email message.

As I noted nearly two years ago, Bartz seemed lost at Yahoo. She provided lots of sound and fury, not to mention abundant theatrics, but her reign was more sideshow than focused leadership. Yahoo didn’t need a sideshow. There’s not much money in that.

To be fair, though, Bartz was miscast in her role. Before she came to Yahoo, she made her name and reputation as the chief executive at Autodesk, a company that specializes in the development of 3D-design, engineering, and entertainment software.

As you might imagine, Autodesk’s software was (and still is) sold to and used by design professionals and engineers,  not consumers. On the other hand, Yahoo is a content, media, and communications company that serves a broad-based consumer market. They’re very different companies, and it’s not clear why the Yahoo board thought Bartz’ previous experience made her the ideal candidate to reverse the dimming fortunes of one of the Internet’s brightest lights during the wild 90s.

Anyway, the whole Yahoo saga of the last decade has been an unremittingly sad story.  Yahoo retains some valuable assets, but nobody there seems to know how to get the most from them.

Sometimes a Deal is Just a Deal

What I think we see today at The New Times is an instance of a writer and his editors trying to find a pattern where none might exist.

The muddled result is reflected in the headline: “Are Mergers Back? Well, Sort Of.” The writers tries a variety of hypotheses, but his main thrust is to find confidence and optimism among an alleged tumult of M&A activity during the month of August.
However, as comments from prominent investment bankers quoted in the body of the story make clear, sometimes a deal is just a deal. Each one happens for its own reasons, and sometimes its significance doesn’t extend further than its own narrow specificity and frame of reference.

Seeing What We Want to See

As humans, we all like to see associations and patterns in what happens around us, whether we’re observing events in business, economics, politics, or technology. Occasionally, however, we see what we want to see, not what’s really there. I think that’s what happened in the New York Times today.

The writer wanted to see a new wave of market confidence in a putative surge of M&A activity.  There are two problems, though: The supposed surge might be nothing more than an uncoordinated spasm, and the confidence might not exist.

Reading the comments of the industry luminaries cited in the story, one could make a case that many of the latest mergers are driven as much by considerations of efficiency and savings as by any anticipation of robust market growth.

RealD’s 3D Promise and Peril

I should have an opinion on RealD’s IPO today. Fortunately, I do have one, and I will share it with you now.

If 3D goes big, RealD will scale right along with it. The company is the leading purveyor of 3D projection systems for digital cinemas. By its own estimates, it owns more than half of that market, holding off competitors such as Dolby, Laboratories, Inc., IMAX Corporation, MasterImage 3D, and X6D Limited.

It’s interesting to see Dolby among RealD’s primary competitors. In many respects, RealD is emulating the approach Dolby used to dominate the stereoscopic sound market in cinemas worldwide. RealD has read Dolby’s playbook, and heretofore it’s done better applying it to 3D cinema than Dolby has done.

You can peruse RealD’s prospectus yourself, but here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

As of December 25, 2009, there were approximately 16,000 theater screens using digital cinema projectors out of approximately 149,000 total theater screens worldwide, of which 4,286 were RealD-enabled (increasing to 5,966 RealD-enabled screens as of June 1, 2010). In 2009, motion picture exhibitors installed approximately 7,500 digital cinema projectors, an approximately 86% growth rate from 2008, and in 2008, motion picture exhibitors installed approximately 2,300 digital cinema projectors, an approximately 36% growth rate from 2007. Digital Cinema Implementation Partners, or DCIP, recently completed its financing that is providing funding for the digital conversion of up to approximately 14,000 additional domestic theater screens operated by our licensees AMC, Cinemark and Regal. We believe the increasing number of theater screens to be financed by DCIP provides us with a significant opportunity to deploy additional RealD Cinema Systems and further our penetration of the domestic market.

The salient point is that the addressable market is large, the overall penetration rate for 3D projection systems is relatively low, and the market stage is nascent. Moreover, this is worldwide opportunity, not one restricted to the North American marketplace.

That’s a good thing, too, though RealD — like everyone else with valuable intellectual property — is concerned about the fate that might befall it in China. Among noted risk factors in the company’s prospectus, we find the following:

Our business is dependent upon our patents, trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and other intellectual property rights. Effective intellectual property rights protection, however, may not be available under the laws of every country in which we and our licensees operate, such as China.

Even though that’s a legitimate concern, it isn’t RealD’s biggest worry. The real worries in my view are industry dynamics (namely, 3D’s spread from cinemas to consumer electronics such as televisions, PCs, cell phones, and game consoles), the quantity and qualify of 3D entertainment fare (also known as content), and the ability of the industry ecosystem and consumers to foot the 3D bill.

3D has proven marketable in cinemas, but now it is trying to expand its empire into consumer electronics. That’s an opportunity and a threat for RealD, which obviously wants to extend its hegemony beyond the three-dimensional silver screen.

RealD will have to rejig its business model and its technologies to capture consumer-electronics markets. It will have to enter into new relationships, build or buy new products and capabilities, and market and sells its wares differently. And that’s presuming that 3D makes a successful commercial leap into living rooms, mobile devices, and other display-bearing devices. Much remains to be done on that front.

Then we come to the content issue. You might have noticed that not all 3D films have the box-office wallop of Avatar. Movie exhibitors like the premium they charge consumers for watching 3D movies (though they are less enamored of the added cost of 3D projection systems), but the willingness of the masses to pay more per view is contingent on cinemas offering them experiences they deem worthy of the 3D surcharge.

I’ve scanned the lineup of 3D films slated to hit theaters over the several months. I am noticing — how shall I say? — the pungent whiff of ripe schlock arresting my olfactory senses, even though, incredibly, RealD has not entered the “Smell-O-Rama” business yet.

Sadly, a lot of cheesy horror movies are queued up for the 3D treatment. That’s not good. I’m of the aesthetic view that ostentatious protrusive effects, used to goose the shock value of severed heads and buzzing saws, aren’t the best utilization of 3D technology. I like the immersive depth 3D can bring to quality entertainment and live sports, but I’m not sold on the viability of cheap gimmicks, or of 3D as ornamental gossamer for bad content. Look, a crap movie is crap movie. A 3D turd is still a turd.

And a proliferation of 3D turds will not do the 3D industry any good. Does anybody in Hollywood remember the 1950s . . . or perhaps read history?

Anyway, presuming that 3D is used naturally, that it is applied to good movies rather than as a decorative wrapper for bad ones, RealD still will have to contend with the nasty array of macroecoomic uncertainties that beset all us all.

There’s considerable risk in RealD as an investment vehicle, and there’s also a commensurate measure of promise. Today, on their first day of trading, RealD shares were snapped up eagerly by investors who see more promise than peril. The stock was up sharply from the open, and the company was able to price its offering well above expectations.

That’s an important consideration, by the way. Earlier in this post, I mentioned that RealD intends to take its 3D technology to consumer electronics. As part of that foray, the company is also looking at developing autostereoscopic (3D without glasses) technologies to eventually supersede its stereoscopic (3D with glasses) technology.

All things considered, I don’t think the glasses are going to cut it for casual television viewing in living rooms; nor do I think anybody but the geekiest of geeks will want to be wearing 3D glasses for extended periods while using a mobile device or playing a game console. The company that does autostereoscopic 3D right stands to reap massive rewards. RealD wants to be that company, but it’s not alone — Sony, Samsung, Dolby, 3M, Nintendo, and many others are in the mix, and their advances are closely monitored by HP, Dell, Apple, IBM, Cisco, and other major players.

RealD needs a warchest to fight that battle. Today’s IPO delivers it, as the company makes clear:

We will continue to develop proprietary 3D technologies to enhance the 3D viewing experience and create additional revenue opportunities. Our patented technologies enable 3D viewing in theaters, the home and elsewhere, including technologies that can allow 3D content to be viewed without eyewear. We will also selectively pursue technology acquisitions to expand and enhance our intellectual property portfolio in areas that complement our existing and new market opportunities and to supplement our internal research and development efforts.

Today’s IPO will help RealD pursue its strategic plan. Numerous external factors, however, are beyond its direct control.

Facebook Croons New Tune, But Song Remains the Same

Bruce Nussbaum, a former assistant managing editor at Business Week who now serves as a professor at Parsons School of Design, makes the argument that some of Facebook’s current privacy-related woes stem from its inability to remain attuned to cultural changes affecting its audience.

I’m not sure whether I buy the argument in its entirety, partly because Facebook long ago left behind its singular focus and dependence on college and high-school kids. Still, two brief sentences in Nussbaum’s blog post at Harvard Business Review are undeniably true:

At the moment, it (Facebook) has an audience that is at war with its advertisers. Not good.

No, it’s not good. But, as I argued early last year, Facebook was destined to be in conflict with its audience. The outcome was inevitable, resulting from Facebook’s inability or unwillingness to be transparent about the specifics of its business model and its exploitative relationship with its audience.

Facebook was neither forthcoming nor honest. Then, as now, Facebook continues to play a cynical game with those who use its service. It continues to lead them to believe they incur no downside for using a nominally free service. Then, as subscribers drop their guards, Facebook exacts a price, furtively dismantling privacy protections and trading on the sorts of sliced and diced demographic data that advertisers crave.

Now, as Facebook goes through another privacy overhaul, promising to make amends for what has become a pattern of deception and dishonesty, subscribers to the service ought to recall a hackneyed admonition about violated trust: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. (George W. Bush emphasized a variation on this theme, you might remember.)

The truth is, Facebook can’t change. It’s too late. It’s caught in the bind I described in that blog post back in early 2009. Still, even though Facebook is ensnared in a trap of its own design, its audience doesn’t have to go along for the ride.

Resisting Facebook’s f8

So, Facebook is opening its f8 developer conference today, and there’s some debate regarding how one should pronounce the event’s title.

Some say the pronunciation should be two syllables, as in the letter F and the number 8. Others, though, suggest that the pronunciation should be “fate,” as in the word denoting ” the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.”

Well, there are some big egos at Facebook, and I would imagine the reality-distortion fields in the company’s boardrooms and hallways have the power to scramble logical thinking and to engender delusions of grandeur. Facebook might actually believe that it is fated to conquer the world, or a least that portion of it that exists online.

Lately much debate has ensued about whether Facebook will render Twitter irrelevant. Like many others, I don’t see a close similarity between the two companies, the online services they offer, their subscriber demographics, or even their current business models. Given Facebook’s prodigious user base, however, there obviously is overlap between its subscribers and Twitter’s.

But the services themselves are very different. From my perspective, Twitter is about communication and information sharing. Facebook, though I haven’t been on it for a long time, seems to be about frivolity, triviality, a veritable online water cooler. It’s designed to be a place where people go for distractions, like television but more interactive.

That’s not surprising because Facebook’s real purposes is to serve as a giant consumer-analytics engine for advertisers. To the extent that it can cover the web, sucking information about what and where its subscribers do in their online existence, Facebook stands to make a lot of money.

But there’s not much to Facebook beyond that. It’s trying to transform its subscribers into an enormous database of likes and dislikes that can be segmented and sold to corporate marketers and advertisers. That’s always been Facebook’s game — as I’ve said here for a long time — and that’s why consumer and customer privacy just isn’t a priority for Facebook.

I’ve always enjoyed the delicious irony that Facebook originated at Harvard University. An institution renowned for erudition and scholarly achievement has produced a commercial entity that does its utmost to culturally impoverish the Internet, and to turn its subscribers into nothing more than data points for advertising campaigns.

Facebook is so malevolently vacuous that it reminds me of the corporate fascism depicted in RoboCop. Facebook is the online manifestation of Omni Consumer Products (OCP), the movie’s fictional, omnipresent megacorporation. Facebook probably would like nothing more than to have its subscribers function solely as consumers, focused only on their likes of dislikes of products and services that advertisers want them to buy.

Like the lecherous huckster in RoboCop who kept repeating the phrase” Ill buy that for a dollar!,” Facebook will try continually to dumb down and commercially condition online communication and interaction.

But I’m not buying what it’s selling, not for a dollar or for any other amount.

Search Company Buys Into Waste-Management Business

I was reminded of the bizarre tale of Liberate Technologies today when I read that Copernic, operator of the Mamma.com search engine, will pay approximately C$3.5-million dollars in cash and stock to get into the waste management equipment business.

Really, you couldn’t make up this stuff.

Apparently Copernic has signed a letter of intent with Fanotech Manufacturing Group to buy three of its subsidiaries: Fanotech Enviro Inc., Fanotech Waste Equipment Inc, and FanoCore. The companies supply garbage trucks and trash bins, among other refuse-related products.

I wonder whether Mark Cuban approves.

3D Television Touted at CES 2010

With the annual edition of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas almost upon us, marketers are working diligently to engender consumer interest in a range of new products and technologies. Their job is to make you want things you don’t really need.

3D televisions are getting a big push. I’ve worked in 3D-visualization technology, so I feel qualified to offer an opinion, learned or otherwise.

For 3D television sets to succeed commercially, content must be widely and readily available, the devices themselves should not inconvenience consumers, and the prices of the sets should not be prohibitive.

Sony says 2012 will be year of 3D television, and it might be right. Even then, I wonder whether enough content will be available for delivery to consumers. More to the point, I question whether consumers will want to make the compromise of wearing specialized goggles to enjoy the 3D experience. For me, that is the litmus test. It’s why I believe 3D television, at least in its first incarnation, will fail to make the commercial grade.

When people flock to a cinema to see a 3D movie, they go for the big-screen spectacle. They’re willing to pay to enter that dark cathedral, to don their 3D glasses, and to settle into plush seats alongside other congregants for approximately two hours of immersive entertainment. Then, at the end of the movie, they take off the 3D eyewear, leave the theater, and return to the real world.

A lot of research into 3D home entertainment has been done by cable companies, satellite broadcasters, and television networks. They’ve all looked into the tolerance level of consumers for 3D glasses. What they’ve found, for the most part, is that consumers are willing to wear the glasses at movie theaters, but are disinclined to wear them in their own homes.

That’s because of the disparity between the cinema experience and the home-viewing experience. People bring a different set of attitudes expectations to the theater than they bring to their own living rooms. What they’ll accept at the cinema, where they get a larger-than-life entertainment experience for a limited period of time, is different from what they’re willing to tolerate in their own homes.

Besides, consumers behave differently while watching television. For the most part, filmgoers give their undivided attention to what;’s on the big screen. (Yes, we all have been in the same theater with rude talkers and senseless jabberers, but those cretins belong to a small minority of the audience, thankfully.) Television viewing tends to be more episodic, less focused. Your attention is diverted occasionally from the television set to other things in your home. During a commercial break, for example, you might walk to the kitchen or to the washroom, or you might take or make a phone call.

Given how you watch television and how you live within your home, would you be wiling to wear 3D glasses for extended periods? Ubergeeks among you might say yes, but most of you would be reluctant to make the sacrifice. That’s why ubergeeks are the earliest of early adopters, and why everybody else isn’t.

Consequently, we won’t see widespread adoption of 3D televisions until they can be viewed autostereoscopically (without glasses). That will take a few years. Autostereoscopic technology needs to improve, and standards for it need to coalesce. Effective and simple means of converting stereoscopic (requiring glasses) cinematic 3D content into autostereoscopic formats must be brought to market, too.

None of those challenges is insurmountable, but each will take time. The glasses-based 3D-television products on the market today are necessary precursors for their glasses-free successors of the future.

Murdoch’s Howler

You never can tell what strange verbal formulations will emanate from the mouths of babes or wizened, septuagenarian media magnates.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of media empire News Corp., today told a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) workshop on the state of journalism that media organizations, if they are to thrive in the digital age, must persuade consumers to pay for news content online.

In of itself, that pronouncement might not rate as particularly newsworthy. We know that news-media organizations must adapt their business models to endure in an age of digital distribution, though there’s some debate as to whether that should be done primarily through online advertising or through subscription-based, reader-pay models. In my view, tapped-out consumers already pay to get on the Internet, and they will be passionately disinclined to cough up content tolls to every online publisher with an outstretched hand.

Murdoch’s howler, though, came in his justification for seeking money directly from his readers rather than from advertisers. The Australian media baron said online publishers must charge for their content because “good journalism is an expensive commodity.”

I consider myself a tolerant soul, but I must call bullshit when I see it. Good journalism? From News Corp? This coming from the philistines who bring us the UK’s Sun and News of the World, not to mention the New York Post? From the man whose publishing empire cheapened the UK’s Times and has rubbished the quality of the Wall Street Journal?

To paraphrase Martin Amis from his novel “Money”: Are Rupert’s publications, online or otherwise, any way to interpret the world?

Cripes, Rupert, why not just admit you’re a greedy sod who wants more money? That would at least have the virtue of honesty, and a certain twisted integrity. Don’t justify your grasping for our coin on the basis of “quality journalism.” You wouldn’t know good journalism if it hit you in the head in the form of a rolled-up newspaper — maybe a copy of the Wall Street Journal before you desecrated it.

A Secularist Amid Technology’s Religious Zealots

I’m not religious about the my consumer electronics or technologies. I am not anybody’s “fanboy.” Generally speaking, I buy and use technology-based products because they meet a functional purpose, not because I am emotionally attached to a brand or to a device. I think having such an emotional attachment is, well, perverse.

So I can’t understand the vehemence with which users of various gaming consoles or mobile phones rail at each other. It’s as it they think something tremendously important as at stake, when really they’re arguing about nothing of lasting significance. Does it really matter, other than to the stakeholders in the companies that provide the products, whether any given consumer favors the Sony PS3 over the Xbox 360? Does it matter, in the big picture, whether you believe Motorola’s Droid is better than Apple’s iPhone?

I don’t get it. And yet others get incredibly emotional over this stuff. I don’t know what’s in it for them, but they seem to feel that they have a personal stake in the outcome.

Somehow, in some way, they emotionally identify with a brand or a device. Are they dupes, deceived by corporate marketers, or are legitimate needs being met? I don’t have the answer, but I’m always skeptical of the advertising culture, especially in an era where our unchecked consumerist cravings have helped to deposit us into a deep, dark economic abyss.

It is with bemusement, then, that I watch the iPhone-versus-Android battle play out. I don’t have a horse in the race, and I’m not sure anybody will collect the purse at the end of it other than Apple or Google (plus the latter’s handset licensees).

Still, people who have nothing tangible to gain — other than a sense of being “right” about choosing an allegedly superior device for their personal conspicuous consumption — seem exercised about it al the same. Through it all, I feel like an anthropologist studying an exotic post-historic civilization.

News Corp. Stirs Pot in Threat to Cut Exclusive Deal with Microsoft

News Corp. potentate Rupert Murdoch supposedly has been pondering a delisting of his company’s news content from Google’s search network.

Moreover, according to reports, Murdoch has been considering an exclusive relationship that would see News Corp’s content be searchable and available only on Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Apparently Microsoft would pay for the privilege, but nobody knows how much.

In fact, not much is known about details related to Murdoch’s prospective flight from Google and toward Microsoft. That’s because it’s an idea that hasn’t been fully developed.

It hasn’t been fully developed because Murdoch is testing the waters. I don’t think he has made a decision to throw in his lot with Microsoft — not yet, and perhaps not ever. What he does want, however, is a better deal from Google. Like many publishers, he’d like a bigger cut of news-related advertising-search revenue, especially from Google, which remains the runaway web-search leader despite Microsoft’s rebranded and revitalized efforts under the Bing moniker.

Murdoch is known to be obdurate, but he didn’t build a vast media empire by being thick as a brick. He knows that Google is the search leader, that his striking an exclusive deal with Microsoft won’t shift the balance of power appreciably in the search world, and that his news properties would likely suffer more than Google would from any scorched-earth tactics he might choose to employ.

The News Corp. chieftain is stirring the pot, hoping Google comes into the kitchen to see what’s cooking. The problem is, most of his firm’s content isn’t irreplaceable. Google would like to be able to index it, sure, but Google could live without News Corp.

How would News Corp. — in a world where more and more people consume their news online — fare without Google?

Bartz Rails at Ghost of Yang as Microsoft-Yahoo Deal Needs More Time

Microsoft and Yahoo struck a complex deal related to search and advertising. As such, I am not surprised that it hasn’t gotten done by the self-imposed deadline the companies set as the wrap-up date.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Yahoo said the two companies had mutually agreed to continue their negotiations beyond October 27 — yes, two days ago — the original target date for delivery of a definitive agreement.

Don’t read too much into the extension. The deal still looks to be going forward, but it is complicated, stretching over ten years and replete with potential antitrust minefields.

Said Yahoo:

“The parties are working diligently on finalizing the agreements, have made good progress to date, and have agreed to execute the agreements as expeditiously as possible.”

Explained Microsoft:

“Microsoft and Yahoo! are committed to this agreement and believe this is a highly competitive deal that is good for consumers, advertisers and publishers. We have made good progress in finalizing the definitive agreements. Given the complex nature of this transaction there remain some issues that need some additional clarity and definitive details. So, the teams at Yahoo! and Microsoft are continuing to work on the remaining details, and we have mutually agreed to extend the period to negotiate and execute the agreement. We plan to do this as expeditiously as possible. Both companies are optimistic that we will be able to close this deal by early 2010.”

Nothing to see here, folks, excepted lawyers and executives studying annotated copies of tentative agreements, with attendant clauses and subclauses, in boardrooms and at conference tables.

Something that we wish we didn’t have to witness, but continue to have flung into our line of sight like a bad reality show, is Carol Bartz’ inveterate and intemperate attacks on previous Yahoo regimes and on her favorite media punching bags. During her presentation to market analysts paying a visit to Yahoo, as noted by Kara Swisher at All Things Digital, Bartz’s target was the previous Yahoo administration.

I’ve written previously about how counterproductive and senseless such fulminations can be, especially when they’re being issued by a CEO. Sadly, the following comments, taken from an earlier post in this august forum, remain more relevant than ever:

Something else she (Bartz) needs to stop doing is blaming the past regime for the Yahoo problems she hasn’t imputed to the media. There’s no upside to continuing a jeremiad against a defunct regime. She should be looking forward, not backward. Jerry Yang and his lieutenants might have bequeathed problems to Bartz and her team, but that’s why they’re there – to solve those problems. The new team has been brought aboard to boldly and confidently chart a new course, not to endlessly bemoan the baggage they’ve inherited.

Besides being pointless, her excoriations of the past regime are culturally poisonous. In attacking Yang and the Yahoo of old, she implicitly assails those Yahoo managers and employees who were left behind and remain with the company. Rather than rallying the troops under all-encompassing banner, she risks instigating an us-against-them dynamic, whereby the new members of the company are arrayed against the holdovers.

I just don’t get it. Bartz gains nothing by ripping into the ghost of Jerry Yang. In fact, the entire backward-looking routine has gotten very old.

Bartz has been at Yahoo for a while now. She’s steering the ship, and whether it goes into an iceberg or a tropical paradise will be down to her and those in her chain of command. I’m sorry to have to return to an earlier admonition, but the blame game must end at Yahoo.

Yahoo’s Bartz Should Stop the Blame Game

I’m just not seeing how Carol Bartz and her executive team have set Yahoo on a bold strategic course that breaks with the past and takes the company into a bright future.

Not everything in Michael Arrington’s denunciation of Yahoo under Bartz is on target, but his criticisms put lots of checks in the right boxes. Like Arrington, I haven’t seen anything strikingly new from Yahoo since Bartz’ ascension. If anything, the company seems to be practicing the risky alchemy of addition by subtraction: abandoning search in exchange for Microsoft advertising lucre, slashing staff, dumping properties that don’t readily fit the consumer-portal mold.

It’s true that Yahoo was unfocused, and that it needed a narrower, sharper mandate.

What’s more, some of those expenditure reductions and were necessary, especially in a harsh downturn that has taken a jagged bite out of advertising revenue. That said, costs reductions only take a company so far. They help burnish an embattled bottom line, but they do nothing to grow the business.

Ultimately, Bartz’s challenge is to grow Yahoo’s business, to boost the top line. Does she have a coherent strategic plan to get it done? At this point, I’m not seeing it.

Under Bartz, Yahoo is precisely what it was before – a web portal for consumers – but without search. She admits that Yahoo’s natural competitor, the rival that looks more like Yahoo than any other company out there, is AOL. That’s true, but it can’t be comforting news for Yahoo’s stakeholders. AOL, after all, is another portal company looking to redefine itself, squeezed on one side by search and on the other by social networking.

Bartz needs to explain what Yahoo will do that will make it different, make it unique, separate it from the pack. She needs to articulate how it will continue to drive consumers to its virtual front doors and attract the advertising revenue that follows them.

At the same time, she has to stop attacking forces she cannot control and that, frankly, do not control her. Why does she waste so much time berating press and pundits? Every time she does it, I wince. It’s a waste of energy, a waste of time; and time, as the hackneyed adage goes, is money.

The fact is, Bartz will always have critics, Yahoo will always have critics. Then again, every CEO and every company has its critics. CEOs must have thick skin. They have to be able to withstand external criticisms, to be driven by the courage of their convictions and the certitude that they’re blazing the right trail. Bartz needs to stop trying to deflect blame for Yahoo’s struggles toward its external detractors. The critics beyond Yahoo’s walls don’t control the fate of the company. She does.

Something else she needs to stop doing is blaming the past regime for the Yahoo problems she hasn’t imputed to the media. There’s no upside to continuing a jeremiad against a defunct regime. She should be looking forward, not backward. Jerry Yang and his lieutenants might have bequeathed problems to Bartz and her team, but that’s why they’re there – to solve those problems. The new team has been brought aboard to boldly and confidently chart a new course, not to endlessly bemoan the baggage they’ve inherited.

Besides being pointless, her excoriations of the past regime are culturally poisonous. In attacking Yang and the Yahoo of old, she implicitly assails those Yahoo managers and employees who were left behind and remain with the company. Rather than rallying the troops under all-encompassing banner, she risks instigating an us-against-them dynamic, whereby the new members of the company are arrayed against the holdovers.

I’ve seen this dynamic play it out in a few companies, and the results are rarely salutary. The new additions, taking their cues from a new leader who is disdainful of the former executive leadership, suppose that the vast majority of those who preceded them at the company – including the teams they’re now managing – are part of a problem rather than potential allies in a solution. The new team often treats the veterans with barely concealed condescension. At the same time, the long-time employees resent the arrogance and superiority of their new bosses. Understandably, they begin to feel that their new leaders aren’t interested in their ideas and opinions.

Bartz likes to attack the “cynicism” of her media detractors. She should consult a dictionary because he’s not using the right word. Her critics are skeptical, not cynical. Given what she’s shown us heretofore, skepticism seems the proper stance.