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雅虎+美国在线+微软:边缘公司的救赎之道

Kevin Kelleher 2011年11月21日

雅虎、美国在线、微软这三家公司的合并呼之欲出,当然其复杂程度也可想而知。但是,这个思路也自有其道理,至少可以使雅虎不致落入私募基金手中。

    而且,对雅虎员工和用户来说,将公司出售给私募机构有可能是再糟糕不过的选择。许多私募机构均将扭转经营状况视为短期成就。他们几乎肯定会出售雅虎亚洲资产,仅保留核心业务的核心部门,而砍掉其他一切业务。几年后,再将公司售出以赚取利润,那时经过大调整的雅虎必将无比苗条。

    说完前两种选择,再谈谈雅虎与其他一家或者多家公司合并的可能性;这些公司和雅虎一样,大浪淘沙之后,已经沦为互联网产业的配角。在线广告业务如今仍然欣欣向荣,但每隔几年,就会出现一家像谷歌和Facebook这样的公司,成长为互联网行业新的中心,攫取广告开支的大部分份额,同时继续迅猛壮大。而余下的所有公司只能为争夺其留下的残羹剩饭而互相残杀。过去数年中,雅虎就在外围为争夺这口剩饭而苦苦挣扎。

    位于互联网产业中心的巨人们通过创新而不断发展壮大,它们通过采用更为高效的新手段来吸引用户。而在外围竞争的公司,则靠管理庞大的内容目录赢得利润。尽管雅虎内部近来动荡不断,但过去几个季度中,其净利润率始终保持在20%左右。

    雅虎的第三个选择,也是目前的最佳选择,是与同样奋战在外围网络争夺有限利润的其他公司联手。在外围网络领域,规模效益可以带动利润率的增长。两周前,雅虎与微软以及美国在线建立合作伙伴关系,三方可以在彼此的网站上销售各自的“二级”(Class 2,意即不太受欢迎的)显示广告。当然,这很可能只是个防卫性举动,但有人认为,它也有可能是三方放出的一个探测气球,以试探有无可能开展进一步的合作。

    雅虎、美国在线、和微软将在线运营业务合并,让人们不可避免地想到:三木成森,三人成众。但是,除了规模经济的优势之外,这一交易的另一大好处还在于,它们可以互相弥补各自的弱点。长期以来,雅虎不仅与大型广告主之间建立了长久且深入的关系,而且其核心业务始终赢利。美国在线则建立了了第二层内容帝国,现在,雅虎的销售团队也开始向这层内容销售广告。微软不但拥有高效的搜索引擎,遍布全球的分支机构,而且手里还握有大量现金,可以用来加强雅虎在亚洲的力量。

    即便微软、雅虎、美国在线三方联手,在重返互联网创新中心这一位置的过程中,它们仍然会步履维艰。但是,这样做,三方可以拧成一股绳,更利于在奠定广泛的用户群的同时,运营健康的在线业务。

    尽管合并无法让任何一方重现昔日辉煌,但终归胜于另外一种局面:微软和美国在线继续溃败,而雅虎则四分五裂。

    译者:大海

    And for Yahoo's employees and users, a sale to private equity could become the worst option. Many private firms see a turnaround as a short-term accomplishment. They would almost certainly sell off the Asian assets and slash all but the most central operations of the core business. The buyers would sell a few years later at a profit, the remaining Yahoo would be much leaner.

    That leaves a merger with one or more companies that, like Yahoo, are also-rans on the web. Online advertising is still a thriving business, but every few years a giant like Google or Facebook comes along and plants itself at the center of the Internet, drawing in a larger share of advertising spending and growing like crazy. That leaves everyone else fighting for a share of the periphery. That's where Yahoo has been toiling for years -- on the peripheral web.

    The giants at the center of the web thrive through innovation, finding new and more efficient ways to engage users. Those on the peripheral competethrough an ability to manage a vast inventory of content that can be managed profitably. Despite Yahoo's recent turmoil, its net profit margin has remained around 20% for the past several quarters.

    Yahoo's third option -- and at this point, its best -- would be to combine forces with other companies mining the soil on the peripheral web. It's an area where economies of scale could fatten profit margins. Last week, Yahoo joined with Microsoft and AOL to form a partnership to sell each others' "Class 2" (that is, not-so-desirable) display ads on each others' sites. It could be simply a defensive move, but some thought it could be a trial balloon for something more intimate.

    Merging Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft's online operations would draw the inevitable comparisons to tying three bricks together. But beyond simple economies of scale, such a deal would offer strengths to complement the others' weaknesses. Yahoo has long and deep relationships with the biggest advertisers on the web and a core business that is profitable. AOL has built out an empire of second-tier content that Yahoo's sales force is already selling ads on. And Microsoft has an efficient search engine as well as the overseas presence and cash on hand to strengthen Yahoo's presence in Asia.

    A combined Microsoft-Yahoo-AOL would still have a hard time fighting its way back to the innovative center of the web. But it could integrate the three companies into a single one that would have a much better chance of reaching a broad base of users and running a healthy online business.

    So such a merger wouldn't return any of these companies to its glory days. But it's better than the alternative: Microsoft and AOL continuing to lose and Yahoo carved up into pieces.

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