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Yahoo is Better than Google at… Sports! But Does it Matter?

Published: September 22, 2007

Author: David Rodnitzky

I was hanging with some fellow Search Marketers this week and they were telling me about Yahoo Fantasy Football. Apparently, for something like $10 a season, you get this wicked-cool amalgamation of stats, reporting, video, etc. If I cared about the NFL, I’d probably buy it, I figured.
What I care about is college football, though, and I do use Yahoo to check on the latest scores and stories. The only other site out there is ESPN.com and frankly I find that site to be too difficult to navigate. As far as I’m concerned, Yahoo Sports is the best.
And kudos to Yahoo for not resting on their laurels. They recently acquired the Rivals Network, a collection of college sports chatboards, and they’ve started to integrated “Yahoo Answers” into the page. No doubt they will also eventually integrate Flickr in here as well, so that we can see a combination of professional and fan-produced pictures of our favorite events. It goes without saying that sports is a huge industry – online and offline – and Yahoo’s strong position in this vertical is something they should be working hard to maintain.
So let’s see – lots of eyeballs, multiple monetization opportunities, Yahoo’s #1 . . . hmm, doesn’t this bring up a particular question . . . where’s Google? We pondered this a bit, and we came up with two good reasons Google has never attempted to get into online sports.
First, Google has mostly stayed away from content sites. Aside from Google News and Google Finance, Google has (so far) resisted the urge to become a portal, at least in the traditional sense. Is this the right decision? Well, I’d say yes and no. I say yes because Google has a bad habit of going in too many directions at once, and trying to create a bunch of topic-specific portal pages would be yet one more direction to go.
On the other hand, whatever Google touches generally turns to gold, many times regardless of whether their offering is even that good. The Google brand is so strong that opening up sports.google.com would immediately grab 20-30% market share, simply because people would assume it would be a better online experience. Just imagine how much money Google could make from a combination of Google AdSense and Google Fantasy Sports. Online sports is big business.
The second reason Google hasn’t created a sports portal is probably the most relevant one. To quote my fellow SEMer, “Dave, they’re nerds. They don’t care about sports.” Sadly, this is probably as good a reason as any. True, Google has a nice fitness center and sand volleyball courts on campus (and people actually use them), but the DNA of Googleplex does not ooze sports.
You could, perhaps, say the same thing about Yahoo for the last 7-8 years – the DNA of Yahoo has been “content” and “community” and not “tech innovation.” Thus, in 2001 as Google was still getting its sea-legs, Yahoo could have developed a better search algorithm, but that’s just not what the company was interested in.
I think it’s inevitable that Google will someday want to grab traffic away from Yahoo’s community portals – sports being one of them. And I think that they’ll be successful, even if Yahoo’s product is superior. For now, however, this is one instance where Yahoo is winning. As someone who bought Yahoo stock instead of Google stock in 2005, and someone who supports a college football team that once had 19 straight losing seasons believe me, every victory counts.

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