Earnings: YHOO CEO Semel Says GoogleClick Validates Strategy, Raises Concerns About Competition

Yahoo Chairman and CEO Terry Semel looks at Google’s deal to acquire DoubleClick and sees validation, or so he told analysts during Tuesday’s after-market earnings call. Asked about the impact the deal could have on how Yahoo works with advertisers using DoubleClick, Semel replied: “For starters, it certainly does validate Yahoo’s strategy for these past few years. We always saw it as a very important part of advertising and we’re happy to see others now finally come to that table. As to how the individual advertisers will feel about it, my guess is there will be some who are fine and there may be many who, perhaps, aren’t fine.” Without stating his own feelings on whether the deal should be allowed to go through — he wasn’t asked directly — Semel raised the issue of competition, saying, “I think that there’s also been a lot of comment about concerns of advertisers, advertising agencies, perhaps consumers in general. We understand all those concerns and we fundamentally think that competition benefits consumers and the whole industry for that matter.”

As usual, the earnings call covered a lot of ground, starting with Semel’s prepared remarks about how Yahoo is delivering on its promises (pick a promise, any promise) followed by Sue Decker, acting CFO and advertising head, with numbers and guidance, (I’m seriously wondering if this is a company that would be better off without guidance.) Analysts’ questions were all over the map, with the expected focus on Panama and its anticipated impact on revenue. From the call:

Exec search: Yahoo has yet to appoint a new CFO or the head of the audience group, one of its three divisions. The openings were created by the re-org announced last December but the formal search didn’t begin until mid-January. Semel said the company is on the verge of making some key executive appointments: “We’re very, very excited about it and, as I mentioned before, I think in the next number of weeks we should have some new people aboard.” He also talked up internal talent and mentioned making the three top international slots from within just last week. (We expect those be announced within the next day; as we reported today, they include moving just-named CSO Toby Coppel to London in a new role.)

Social media: Semel said the company made “significant progress” in the first quarter “on our strategy to further Yahoo’s position as a leading force in social media.” Yahoo’s social media properties now have 115 million visitors worldwide — nearly half, or 56 million, are under the age of 35. He said that makes Yahoo “the leading site on the web for this important demographic.” Yahoo would like to make some money off the successful Yahoo Answers; initial steps include sponsored search, content match, display ads, sponsored questions, etc.

Yahoo Paypal Checkout: Yahoo and eBay have expanded their strategic partnership to include the Yahoo PayPal Checkout program launching today. Semel announced the deal as a “streamlined” process with enhanced lead conversion capability; acting CFO Decker added later that the program was live and that 2,500 merchants would be “lit up with the new icon today.” (I gleaned some more details after the call: Yahoo sponsored search results will show a blue shopping cart icon linking to merchants who accept PayPal express. It’s viewed, in part, as extending the power of search marketing platform Panama.)

Mobile: Semel once again stressed mobile as a “high priority” and a “major focus.” Nothing really new but a list of what Yahoo has been doing in mobile and what it has accomplished so far. Semel: “With the launch of several key new products and strategic partnerships, we’re making progress on our goal of being the leading player in mobile search and mobile monetization.” Top on the list for 1Q07: the Yahoo Go 2.0 and Yahoo One Search in January. Semel claims Yahoo is already the number one mobile web destination in the U.S.

Newspaper consortium: Most of this was covered in detail after Monday’s announcement about the consortium’s expansion in size and scope. Semel said in markets where the newspaper-HotJobs co-branding has already taken place, Yahoo HotJobs traffic has increased “well above the national trends” making it is the fastest-growing online recruitment site in the U.S.

United Online: Yahoon and United Online (NetZero, Juno and Bluelight) have extended their exclusive search and search marketing distribution deal.

Update: The transcript is now up on Seeking Alpha.