Yahoo to Stop Podcasts, Unlimited Music's Future in Doubt

In a banner along the top of its Web page, Yahoo notified users of its podcast service today that it will be shutting down that service on October 31. This as TechCrunch's Michael Arrington discovered the company has scheduled a priority meeting of its senior executives, including CEO Jerry Yang and President Susan Decker, for tomorrow morning.

This afternoon, Yahoo felt the need to prepare customers - and perhaps investors - for tomorrow's news, by giving it the best spin possible early on.

"Today we're planning some changes that also have our user and customer experiences in mind," reads a message on Yahoo's corporate blog from entertainment and video head Vince Broady, entitled, "Finding Focus in Hollywood. "We are streamlining the structure of one portion of our Santa Monica presence - our entertainment division - with a vision of offering a more integrated entertainment experience. That means we'll be creating more synergies between our music, games, movies, TV, and omg! properties, making them more personal and engaging for entertainment hounds."

It may not have been an unexpected move, especially after the most recent executive shuffle last June which hoisted co-founder Yang back to his old position, and which catapulted former CFO Decker clear through the company's recycled Plexiglas ceiling. Yang replaced Terry Semel, who ascended to the CEO post after having served a quarter-century with Warner Bros., and who represented the incursion of the Hollywood mindset with Yahoo's native Sunnyvale sense of innovation and purpose.

Based on a statement given him by a Yahoo spokesperson today, Arrington believes Yahoo will announce tomorrow that Broady's division will be drastically streamlined. While the services he listed in his blog posting may continue to exist, Arrington expects them to be drastically pared down, with resources being shifted to the company's free, ad-supported services.

Broady's message went on to say his company will be refocusing its attentions on helping studios and music labels to get their content online, especially for streaming videos. That may translate into free or streaming services, as opposed to subscription services. This afternoon, no message similar to the one appearing on Yahoo Podcasts appeared on the company's Yahoo Music Unlimited page.

An Associated Press story late today cited a study by ratings service Hitwise as having rated Yahoo's podcast service as its least trafficked single property, with visitors declining at an annual rate of 20%.

Last May, Yahoo shut down its auction sites for US and Canadian users, in a move believed to have been prompted in part by a Hitwise study at that time rating the auction service among its least trafficked.

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