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Lloyd Braun on Yahoo 2010

Lloyd_braun_1Great interview with Lloyd Braun in today's Hollywood Reporter on where he thinks Yahoo! will be in five to ten years:

"...Yahoo! right now has a very strong, deep content presence on the Web. We have 16 of these vertical sites, which I call channels -- not because they're like television. It's not going to be a place where we're going to do our version of "Alias" or "Lost" or any of those shows. But these places are young on the evolutionary scale of what they're going to look like. My job is really to define -- with this group of executives that I have -- what is Internet content going to be? Right now, we're an aggregator of information with some interesting broadband components. We have these great deals with JibJab and Mark Burnett (for extra content from NBC series "The Apprentice"). There's going to be more and more of that. But that will represent only the beginning of where this is going to end up..."

I think what we currently think of as web sites is limited by what we have seen so far: we can't imagine the world without a Google or C|Net, for example. But the Internet, like TV broadcast, is only a distribution mechanism. As the Internet becomes increasingly mainstream, fickle consumer mores are going to have a greater impact on what is delivered over the Internet than what purists think the web experience should be.

I like that Braun mentions "I Love Lucy." It's one of my favorite examples of old/new media thinking. Once upon a time, people couldn't imagine television without Lucille Ball on it, and so as television went through its many changes -- and advertisers realized their horrible mistake in not taking a more active role earlier -- the Lucille Ball show changed as well: they tinkered with the formula, they added color, and today people assume that it just died under the weight of all the changes.

People have all sorts of different theories why the show died: I think they simply didn't view the business opportunity properly. The "I Love Lucy" show begat Desilu Studios, which was responsible for most of the early hits at CBS including the Star Trek franchise. Because Desilu was treated as an afterthought instead of the core business, it drifted in one form or another to Gulf+Western, then Paramount, and then Viacom.

Understanding what happened, and why it happened, is instructive in thinking about Yahoo! and internet programing. Braun goes on to say:

"...I'm giving great thought that as we construct these models, that in success we are not going to create a system that does exist in television now where there are such crushing upfront costs that the whole weight of the system makes it feel like it's going to break. We have to be thoughtful not to just look at this business where it is now but where it will be five, 10 years from now. Because once we start establishing these precedents, they get very, very hard to break. I don't pretend to have the answers to this yet, but I am giving an enormous amount of thought to the issues."

Braun has the opportunity to change the traditional video crapshoot that is TV programing by incorporating what people today are calling the Long Tail into program development economics.  (There's a reason Liberty Media chairman John Malone never liked movie studio investments.)

I get the feeling that Braun is a student of history. Braun doesn't want to limit the business to just being a media brand - he wants Yahoo! to become something much bigger. And to make this happen, Braun is bringing the advertisers and other stakeholders into the process early in the process. (As a sidebar, I hope Braun is still willing to rethink his notion of distribution...)

You read it here first.

Link: Hollywood Report interview with Lloyd Braun



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