If you need a lesson on the dangers of ignoring change look no further than AOL and Yahoo. Last week AOL wrote off $1 billion and the exodus of talent from Yahoo continues. This is what happens when you ignore changes to the marketplace but most of all when you ignore changes to consumer behavior.
There was a time when AOL was relevant. It was the start of the Internet and as people started using the Web more and more there was AOL with the discs that seemed to be everywhere. Then they were purchased by corporate American and they slowly began the descent into irrelevance. Time-Warner had no idea what to do with AOL and slowly AOL started to lose its edge. Finally spun off AOL is just a shadow of its former self with an inexperienced marketing VP and a CEO whose only actions seem to be selling off chunks of the business or letting people go.
At Yahoo, we have seen a new CEO and revolving door when it comes to their talent. While Yahoo still is fighting for its life more and more people are leaving the portal because frankly Yahoo has not made itself relevant. It may take a little bit longer but Yahoo may also be headed to obsolesce as website users become more web savvy.
How did both of this website fall so far behind when new startups are finding market niches and thriving ? Well, first their CEO’s lack vision. They may know where they want to go but it has not been communicated well, consumers and investors. Today consumers are quick to try new things online but frankly there is nothing that Yahoo or AOL offer that makes anyone want to check them out.
Today CEO’s have to have a vision but more importantly, they have to stay on top of emerging trends to ensure that their visions are in line with consumers needs and want. I saw the decline coming when AOL announced that a young person fresh out of school with no experience was being made a marketing executive. For Yahoo, it was when all the people who made Yahoo great left leaving bean counters in their wake.
Failure is not fatal, but failure to change is certainly a recipe for disaster in the online marketing world.