Yahoo puts forth better-than-expected earnings, but no 'economic predictions'

In her company's earnings report on Tuesday, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz declared herself not to be in the economic-indicator business: "Overall we are seeing less fear in the market, but it's too early to call... We'll leave the economic predictions to others." The company is busy, they explained, being "Internet kingmakers and the center of the online ecosystem."

Big talk? It got bigger. Bartz said on the call that Yahoo is the largest online media company in the world, with one out of two Internet users using one Yahoo property or another. When news breaks, "our home page continues to be the big dog. And in that kingmaker role, Bartz (relating a recent event in which a link on the Yahoo front page drove nearly 9 million viewers to a story on the New York Times in under three hours) "in the end we work with [news] publishers, not against them" -- a not-so veiled reference to Google News' ongoing conflicts with news outlets that feel that that service's aggregation goes too far.

Earnings for Q2 -- $1.34 billion, for an EPS of ten cents -- were up both sequentially and year-over-year. That's less about revenue than about fairly aggressive management decisions, such as reducing headcount and tktk. Analysts had expected an EPS of eight cents. It's especially interesting considering revenues were down 15% to $1.57 billion, with finance, travel and entertainment posting the most significant declines. Health, travel and telecom were up, and newly minted CFO Tim Morse threw out the intriguing data that the automotive sector, of all things, may be stabilizing.

The new home page, rolling out to US users today, was something Bartz wanted to talk about. She discussed work in progress on the company's APT ads platform and, repeatedly, mentioned that Yahoo was getting serious about getting rid of certain incredibly obnoxious ads. (No names, of course, but anyone who uses Mail would have a good idea of what constitutes an obnoxious display ad.) She said that the company is "doubling down" on Mail improvements, and is continuing efforts to restructure, including some aggressive moves to dump unneeded real estate. Both Bartz and Morse repeatedly used words like "simplify" and "focus" -- figure out what the customers like and work on that, a theme Bartz has been sounding now for three earnings calls and, without a doubt, every possible staff meeting.

Surprises? Well, there was no discernible swearing, though your constant reporter couldn't help but notice the remarkable change in tone on these earnings calls in just three quarters, from nearly robotic to practical and enthusiastic -- a Carol Bartz call sounds nothing like a Jerry Yang call. She mentioned that the company is "closing in" on a decision concerning a head for their international operations.

Bing was mentioned, and Bartz was complimentary, calling it "a good product" and offering "kudos." And that's as close as any of the analysts speaking on the call got to asking about an imminent partnerships with Microsoft -- not a peep, not a hint, not a whisper of whether the rumors ads deal is really in the works.

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