Alibaba CEO Jack Ma – who says he’s “very interested” in buying Yahoo, and that the only thing holding him up is waiting for Yahoo’s independent board members to tell him what they want.
We’re sceptical on two fronts.
We’re sceptical that Ma actually wants to operate Yahoo’s domestic business, and we’re sceptical that the US government would allow him to.
One industry source says the reason Ma keeps saying he wants to buy Yahoo is that “he wants all people to know that they need to go through him if they intend to do something w Yahoo.”
Let’s put all that aside, though and ask: what would a Yahoo under Ma look like?
Well, first, Ma would fire everyone in charge at Yahoo.
Then he’ll probably turn the thing into a storefront.
Alibaba’s biggest business is TaoBao, which is basically an online shopping mall, full of 50,000 independent vendors offering one billion products. At a talk at Stanford, Ma recently said that he wants to help Chinese-style e-commerce cross the ocean. Maybe Yahoo is the portal he’d use to do it.
Right now Yahoo is little more than a still-very-popular email provider that manages to throw lots of traffic at its front page, which in turn spits traffic at “tentpole” content – blog posts, slideshows, and videos – created around big current events. Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Sports also attract their own audiences.Ma would direct all that email and portal traffic toward something besides brand advertising supported media. He point it at third-party stores. Yahoo would start to look more like Amazon or eBay or Groupon.
As for Yahoo’s popular media properties – like sports, like finance – Ma would probably spin them off. One insider suggests Ma will slough them off on AOL, which is actually trying its best to become a media business.