We talked to Yahoo’s new US Sales chief David Karnstedt today about Yahoo’s reorg and industry trends. We also tried to get Karnstedt, who’s been at the job for three months, to address the state of the mortgage advertising business and its impact on Yahoo. But beyond acknowledging that mortgage business itself isn’t so hot, Karnstedt wouldn’t talk about the mortgage ad business, or whether it was affecting Yahoo. (Note: Yahoo is in a quiet period in advance of its next quarterly filing, due 10/16).
ON MORTGAGE SECTOR:
Peter Kafka: Last week Google sales execs said they had seen a pullback from mortgage advertisers in general, but that it wasn’t affecting Google’s own mortgage ad business. What are you seeing?
David Karnstedt There’s no doubt that there’s issues in the mortgage-related space. I think that each customer is going to react to that differently. That’s not anything specific I can comment on about the category, but I think needless to say there’s obviously issues out there.
PK: Can you elaborate?
DK: We see a variety of different things. We see things in search, where if somebody reduces spend, that’s just taking away the penny from the next person behind them. That’s not necessarily something that’s a marketplace effect. But commenting on whether some individual advertiser is cutting back or pushing forward is not something I do.
PK: Yahoo has made a series of organizational moves and a flurry of acquisitions recently. Do you imagine this activity will slow down once the “100-day overhaul” is completed next month?
DK: We’re looking for capabilities that augment what we have. When those capabilities present themselves, we will take action. Rather than say we’re going to go get big companies for big companies’ sake, we’re going to find capabilities and then go slot them in.
PK: Recently you’ve been competing with Microsoft, Google and the big ad agencies for a limited number of ad networks and ad technology companies. Do you worry about overpaying for the next deal?
DK: I can’t comment on the value of acquisitions. What I can tell you is that [the acquisitions we’ve made are] going to increase the value of inventory.
PK: News Corp.’s (NWS) MySpace is generating a lot of press with its ad targeting campaign. What do you think of it?
DK: I haven’t looked at it. I look at things that pop onto the radar screen, and that’s not one that’s popped onto the radar screen. I’m out talking to customers all the time and it’s not one of those buzz things where we are constantly hearing customers say “that’s terrific,” or “boy, this is great.”
PK: Some of your competitors suggest that it must be hard for you to run a national sales business when you’re based in California. Do they have a point?
DK: It’s a national business. so I go where I need to be closest to clients. Clearly there’s a huge concentration of marketers and agencies in New York, So I spend a disproportionate amount of time around those people.
PK: Do you think that’s a fair issue, though, at least in terms of perception?
DK: I don’t at all. We’ve got a huge presence in New York. We’ve got a very senior team that’s been working in New York, working for Yahoo, for many years, so we’ve got a huge presence in this marketplace. In terms of my individual presence, I go where the marketers are. If that’s in New York, I’m here. If that’s in Chicago, I’m there.
ON WEB METRICS:
PK: There’s a debate about what the shift away from page views as a dominant metric will mean for Yahoo. Do you think that advertisers have the metrics they’re looking for when evaluating campaigns?
DK: It’s early days. There are a lot of people that are pushing the limits of what they think they want. There’s a lot of data. The blessing and the curse that we have in the Internet is data. The blessing is that there’s tons of insights that you can glean from it. The downside is that it’s tons of data, and data for data’s sake doesn’t improve the marketing or the consumer’s experience. That’s where you’re going to hear us talk a lot more about insights.
PK: Can you elaborate?
DK: There’s a lot of data out there. Finding the gems that can positively influence your future campaigns and how you connect with consumers and marketers is the real art of it. And it is one of those things where art and science come together. So have we locked definitively on the core set of metrics we need to measure success? No. Are we making huge headway? You bet.