Jun 30, 2016 · 3 minutes

If you’re like me, you’ve lost track of who is said to be buying what parts of Yahoo for what amounts of cash.

I’ve spent so many years writing about the potential fate of one of the saddest assets in Silicon Valley history, I’ll be honest: I’ve just lost interest with the day to day.  Wake me when a deal is done.

But I saw this via Twitter this morning, and oh God….

AOL chief Tim Armstrong is chasing a merger with Yahoo to build a data-driven “global platform system” to challenge Facebook and Google’s duopoly on digital advertising. AOL’s telco parent Verizon is a leading contender to buy Yahoo. Armstrong has laid down the blueprint for how he plans to build the world’s top mobile-led media company in the world by 2020, one that reaches “two billion consumers,” up from a current 700 million users. “Facebook and Google are in a powerful enough position to where they can really, in some cases, set the agenda on data for their partners,” he said. 

We all know the way you challenge Google at pretty much any point since the early 2000s had nothing to do with Yahoo. And Facebook? Yep. The company that dominates four of the top mobile messaging platforms is just terrified at the combination of… AIM and Yahoo Messenger. That’s what Madison Avenue has been waiting for.

Oh, but remember the AOL + Verizon deal was all about building a mobile video powerhouse. Yunno, video! The answer to every question asked in content and media today.

Tronc: What’s the future of journalism: MOBILE VIDEO!

Jack Dorsey: How is Twitter going to grow? MOBILE VIDEO!


Today the promise is Armstrong building “the top mobile-led media company in the world by 2020.” Back in 2015 he was promising AOL and Verizon would represent: “The first & most powerful media technology company on the planet.” Adding this bit of inscrutability: “The bundling of Verizon and AOL creates a powerful platform for the unbundling of media.”

I still have no idea what that means.

Back then Armstrong similiarly vowed that his billions in deal making could turn the heat up on Facebook and Google. From 2015:

The combination of Verizon and AOL brings us to the scale of Facebook and Google: Verizon touches 70% of Internet traffic across 1.5 billion PCs, TVs, and mobile devices.

At least now he’s “reaching” consumers versus the vaguer and creepier “touching” them. But bizarre rhetoric aside, let’s see how the promise worked last time.

Google and Facebook’s utter domination of the ad market has increased since AOL and Verizon combined forces to stop them. Those two control some 75% of digital ad revenues, and analysts expect that to increase to 85%. In video, the domination is even more pronounced.

Sure, Yahoo and AOL have some legacy strength. But those assets are mostly on the desktop, even if a phone company happens to own them. Mobile ads have gone from zero to $127 billion in the last decade and are poised to overtake desktop next year.  

That shift is worrying investors in Google, for fuck sake. That shift has made Facebook’s core social platform into its “legacy business” already. If Facebook hadn’t made a series of aggressive and prescient moves with Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram, it’d be in a very different position.

If Google and Facebook’s far more dominant and modern desktop ad businesses are decreasing in value, how on earth could a combination of AOL and Yahoo be a threat?

Tim Armstrong is building a Voltron of crappy old parts that are rusted and decaying and are only impressive in their immense decaying size. Adding Yahoo onto it only makes it more decrepit and unwieldy.