Following Carol Bartz's email, announcing 650 layoffs at Yahoo (just days before the holidays), Thomas Hawk, an enthusiastic Flickr user - one of the, if not most, successful photos-sharing site in the world - has written an open letter to Carol Bartz airing his frustration towards the Yahoo CEO. He charges Bartz of neglect towards Flickr, one of the "most important and significant cultural treasures of our lifetime" and expresses dismay at Yahoo's current strategy of buttoning down the hatches to focus on the 'strengths' such as email, the homepage, search, mobile, advertising and content. In assessing her performance as a CEO over the last two years Hawk categorically gives Carol Bartz a 'fail grade', where she personally gave herself a 'B-' and a 'pass'.
And it seems not to be without due cause. Astonishingly, Carol Bartz does not have a Flickr account. Is that not a bit like Ronald McDonald not eating hamburgers?
Hawk goes on to detail Bartz's lack of interest in Yahoo products and that she does not seem to realize what an asset Flickr is to the company:
"But you know what? You haven't taken the time to really explore the social side of Flickr. Hell, you don't even have an account yourself on Flickr. One of the most highly visible and trafficked Yahoo properties and you don't even have an account there. Would it be so hard to have your assistant set up an account for you and post some photos of some mountains from a family vacation two years ago?
I listened in on your first analysts conference call. On the call you mentioned that your daughter was using Facebook to share photos. There was an opportunity right there for you to plug your own photo sharing site. Flickr needs you. They need you to be a cheerleader for the site. It would be good for morale to hear you mention the site once in a while. It also seems like a no brainer from a PR perspective. I know if I were CEO at Yahoo I sure as hell would have a Flickr account. In fact I'd set up accounts really on all of the services that I was commander and chief of and I'd actually use them from time to time to build a familiarity with what works and what doesn't."
We're inclined to agree. Flickr is one of the most used sources of photos on the web, and a cornerstone for the blogging community - sharing photos on Flickr and allowing them to be used elsewhere is so ingrained in web culture that "photo-credits" have become a means of building links and creating relationships between blogs, websites and social networks. Flickr users tend to be extremely innovative and creative in what they can do with a simple photo-sharing system - often using the groups facility to create photography games.
Furthermore, FlickR users deliberately use it instead of other photo-sharing sites because of it's clean design and feature set, and more importantly because of it's privacy settings and photo rights management controls. In fact, Facebook owns your photos (if you read the small print - even after you die), whereas Flickr empowers users to be content creators.
It has also been a source for breaking news and for eye-witness coverage of events that people want to continue following - for example, the Tsunami. The demand for such content is evidenced by the emergence of real-time photo search engines.
So I wholeheartedly concur with Hawk. If Yahoo really does want to stay relevant in the modern age, and be the digital content company that it seems to want to be, then Carol Bartz should pay attention to Flickr - as it is a pillar of the web and source of great content - and easily complements their digital publishing strategy.
Story amended: misquoted Thomas Hawk as a Flickr/Yahoo employee but in fact he is simply a power user of Yahoo products.
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