At the All Things Digital conference in California this week, three of the highest-profile web giants - Yahoo, MySpace and Twitter - discussed how they plan to increase web site traffic and gain users, in addition to openly talking about issues concerning their sites raised by the media in recent months.
The three firms have been given a lot of publicity recently. Yahoo has had endless bouts of trouble, with the Microsoft acquisition never completely off the cards, its previous chief executive Jerry Yang stepping down at the end of last year and more recently large-scale jobs cuts.
MySpace suffered a blow to its reputation as figures emerged showing its users have not been increasing as fast as its main rival Facebook, while Twitter has caught public attention because of its exploding growth rate in the last six months, and its failure to monetise users.
First on stage was Yahoo chief executive Carol Bartz, who said Yahoo was doing well but the firm had areas where it could improve. She said the reason why people trust Yahoo is because of its editorial content, innovation and timeliness.
“But we have to do an even better job of that,” she added, and on the issue of brand advertising, Bartz said, “Frankly we can do much better.”
Bartz said she had no plans to hire a second-in-command in order to improve the company, even though she has no internet background herself. “Because I don’t want to be removed from the business,” she said. “It’s a management issue."
Bartz also said a Microsoft deal would be back on the cards if it offered Yahoo “boatloads of money” and had the “right technology”, adding that she considers technology to be interesting when it is “social” or concerns “video advertising”.
However, all in all, Bartz said Yahoo was doing well. “We’re down 13 per cent and relatively that’s great, consider 15 per cent is the new flat.”
Bartz said she was not planning any more layoffs because after her reorganisation Yahoo now had “the right people in the right seats of the bus”.
“Yahoo needed structure and I’m quite good at that,” she said. “It has fantastic people; it just needed clearer lines and clearer responsibilities.”
Meanwhile My Space acknowledged at the conference that it was falling behind in the market because of a lack of innovation.
All Things Digital conducted a poll that it released at the event, surveying a large number of US citizens. The poll suggested that although MySpace is only two per cent behind Facebook in its number of users, it lacks the exciting functionality to maintain the market share.
Six out of 10 MySpace users said they use the site less now than they had once done because they had got 'bored', according to the poll.
MySpace chief executive, Owen Van Natta, said, “If we don’t innovate, people are going to shift their interest elsewhere."
Van Natta said he had plans to build on areas where the site is unique, such as the fact that MySpace allows people to be creative by building their own web pages.
News Corp digital head Jon Miller said MySpace still needs to work on its revenue model and find the right balance between introducing a subscription service and generating more money from advertising.
Meanwhile Twitter was asked about the inactivity of its users.
The All Things Digital poll showed that while 14 per cent of US citizens have an account with the microblogging site, 51 per cent of users sign in less than once a month.
In response, Twitter founder Evan Williams, said, “Twitter is still in its infancy and we want to turn that awareness into engagement."
Williams said it takes a while for users to become addicted to using the service but that he would work to improve its authenticity. He went on to explain that many companies have Twitter accounts but users want to know exactly who it is behind those accounts.
Williams added that Twitter is also currently working on a way to profit from its users.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said the reason Twitter had become so popular was because it gives people a great opportunity to make introductions to people and discover things.
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