Yahoo for Verizon: A soporific press release fails to inspire anyone

Verizon bought Yahoo to combine with AOL and build an online media empire from cast-off spare parts. But its new management can’t seem to write a press release that’s credible, let alone run a media company anyone would visit on purpose.

Here’s the logo for the new brand:

Because apparently Verizon Media Group, formerly known as Oath, now begins with Y. (They must have heard Simon Sinek wrong when he said “Start with Why“.)

Here’s the release with my commentary and translation. I’ve added bold italic for weasel words.

Introducing Verizon Media Group

By: Guru Gowrappan

Verizon Media Group will replace the Oath brand, representing our strong alignment as a core pillar of Verizon’s business.

I’m excited today to share that beginning January 8, 2019, Verizon Media Group will replace the Oath brand, representing our strong alignment as a core pillar of Verizon’s business.

Commentary: It’s never a good sign when a company spends its efforts messing about with names instead of doing actual work. Yahoo is a name that meant something. So did AOL. But those names meant something failing from the past. Oath didn’t mean anything and didn’t last long. Verizon and Media are names that don’t go together; telephone companies have always failed with media content. So Verizon Media Group is about as uninspiring a name as there is. Even so, the Guru that leads the group (yes, that’s his real name) is apparently excited.

Translation: The Verizon Media Group name is replacing Oath, which replaced AOL and Yahoo. Exciting.

This quarter, we’ve made it easier for people to access our unparalleled diversity and quality of consumer products, while making it easier for advertisers and publishers to solve their business challenges with the recent launch of our unified ad platforms. We’ve built on this strong foundation and set our advertising solutions apart by introducing over 20 new features this quarter, including engaging ad formats and unique supply such as digital OOH, connected TV and programmatic audio.

Commentary: Talk about exciting! Let’s enthuse with words like “unparalleled diversity,” “solve business challenges,” “strong foundation,” and “over 20 features.” “Strong” joins my weasel word hall of fame along with “expected” and “deeply” — it’s a meaningless but damning indicator of bullshit. And counting features is for losers. (In case you are wondering, OOH means “out of home,” which means billboards.)

Translation: Put your hands together for our unified ad platform. Woohoo.

For publishers, we’ve introduced new opportunities through these emerging channels and innovative auction mechanics. These enhancements will better serve our partners with smarter personalization and stronger engagement to constantly improve our ecosystem.

Commentary: Dude, that’s three “strong”s in the first three paragraphs.

Translation: Publish with us. Align yourself with forward-thinking brands like AOL, Yahoo, and the new, sanitized Tumblr. Try not to pay attention to our sagging audience.

We’ve accelerated the launch of new programs and products in just a few short months:

Translation: Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as . . .

  • We launched the Yahoo app – a new multi-purpose app that provides the best of Yahoo in one place for a cohesive, seamless experience that serves as your personalized daily guide with local weather, your favorite sports teams’ scores and game highlights, top news stories, stock quotes and market news, daily deals, original video content, web search and more.
  • We put Yahoo Finance everywhere our consumers are with content like Women and Money and Personal Finance features and grew our off-network distribution opportunities with partners, such as Apple TV, Roku, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. We will dramatically expand our live market coverage to 8 hours of bell-to-bell coverage beginning on January 7. And we’ll deepen our relationship with members when we officially launch our Yahoo Finance Premium subscription – enabling retail investors to transact on informed investment decisions through access to sophisticated tools, unique proprietary data sets and industry-leading research.
  • Yahoo Sports kicked off the NFL season by giving fans a live stream experience of the highest quality, with friction-free access to the most local and national games ever seen on mobile devices. Our partnerships with the NFL and NBA demonstrate our commitment to deliver fans the content they crave. Our fans love our NFL Live product. Nearly 90% of the fans who watch NFL games on Yahoo Sports return the following week, 60% of them are 39 or younger, and ads within the live stream achieve a 90% completion rate on average.

Translation: When it comes to old-style generic content assembled on other people’s platforms, we are a leader.

  • Yahoo Mail launched features to help members find the best shopping deals/coupons, to get the lowest price on what they buy, and improve their online shopping experience. We debuted Yahoo Mail for iOS 12, adding Siri shortcuts to quickly access important information and more. We optimized the Yahoo Mail app for Android Go phones. This year, Yahoo Mail continues to retain a 4.5+ star app rating. Yahoo Mail is available in 46 languages and 72 markets with over ~200M monthly active users.

Translation: With the dominance of Gmail, Yahoo Mail continues to decline. But it’s still a great spot for spammers.

  • Huffpost  launched HuffPost LIFE, a newly redesigned and expanded section of HuffPost dedicated to service-oriented, inclusive lifestyle content, in a more brand friendly environment across formats and devices and hosted our inaugural parenting conference.

Translation: It’s now conclusive: We are where online media brands go to die.

  • BUILD Series expanded its  live entertainment program offering, including more than 7 hours of daily live programming from our BUILD Series which has featured  nearly 1,300 interviews and over 3,000 on-stage guests creating content that airs on Fios, ROKU, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and more.
  • Yahoo Lifestyle launched the NOW//With Network – a celebrity-driven, interactive platform that connects consumers with top talent, brands and products through premium storytelling and interactive shoppable experiences. This unique branded content series kicked off with two editions, featuring actress/entrepreneur Nicole Richie and actress/singer Janel Parrish.

Commentary: What the heck is “premium storytelling?” What are “interactive, shoppable experiences?” Whatever they are, they weren’t good enough to rank above the 7th bullet in the list.

Translation: We’re sort of like an entertainment brand. Lord knows the world needs more of those.

  • Yahoo News relaunched its app just in time to deliver best-in-class journalism, breaking at least a dozen major scoops in the past month from the first interview with George Conway, to breaking news on the Russia scandal, and an exclusive report on the immigration crisis from reporter Caitlin Dickson, and many others.

Commentary: How many of you turn to Yahoo News for your scoops? Show of hands, please.

Translation: Yahoo News is one of America’s top 250 news sources.

  • We made the important decision to change our policy on Tumblr to better position the brand to deliver on its promise: to provide a safe place for communities of all kinds to thrive.

Translation: We’ve bowdlerized Tumblr, completing the destruction of a once-vibrant social network alternative to the privacy-violating pablum of Facebook.

Most exciting, and as part of one Verizon, we’re growing our work on tomorrow’s technologies — XR, AI, machine-learning, mobile-edge computing, 5G and more.

Translation: We are fully buzzword-compliant. Except for XR, which is a term we made up that nobody else uses.

These are the building blocks of how we will continue to evolve our member-centric ecosystem with much more to come.

I look forward to 2019 and what we will accomplish together as Verizon Media Group.

Commentary: Member-centric? Then why does this release start by talking so much about advertising?

Translation: We’ll keep throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

Flailing is best done quietly. To inspire, you need a strategy.

What are we supposed to think about this 800-word, 9-bullet press release? It substitutes activity for results. It reads as if some corporate drone decided to rename Oath (ugh) to boost Verizon’s brand and had to tack on a bunch of “we also did this” features.

They really should have just called it Yahoo. Despite the tarnish on Yahoo, it’s the best brand of the bunch.

You know what would make this actually impressive?

A strategy.

These incremental moves don’t add up to a strategy to fix the continuing decline in these media properties, now in the hands of a phone company with a new leader whose variegated background fails to inspire.

If you’re going to flail, don’t do it in public and at length. It’s painful to watch.

4 responses to “Yahoo for Verizon: A soporific press release fails to inspire anyone

  1. What a mess of a press release.

    I had to look up XR. I wonder if it’s really a thing and, if it is, whether Verizon is going to be the leader in it.

    I’m glad that I’m an AT&T customer today.

  2. Oh my. Press releases are easy targets when looking for weasel words and obfuscation, but this one … let’s just say that it is “industry-leading in its sophisticated application of brand-friendly content” without, as you said, an underlying strategy.

    Thanks, Josh.

  3. “Put your hands together for our unified ad platform. Woohoo.”

    Woohoo would have been a better name for the conglomerate.

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