Oath Is a Failure Waiting to Happen

By Malcolm Berko

December 13, 2017 5 min read

Dear Mr. Berko: I'm a financial adviser with lots of money under management, and I and two others in our office need your help. Here's the problem, and then perhaps a personal letter from you to Oath, which is the name Verizon gave to its newly merged AOL-Yahoo organization, would help.

For two decades, we used the stock platform made available by Yahoo. It had all the data we needed to analyze thousands of companies. Yahoo's platform was easy to use; the information was easy to understand, and the presentation was clear. We didn't need other stock platforms, because the content was enormous. But 10 months before Verizon bought Yahoo, the platform was abruptly changed to its current format, which is disgustingly inferior to the old platform.

We wrote to Oath and its president, Tim Armstrong, twice. We offered to pay a fee for the return of the original platform and told him that dozens of other brokers we know in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, etc., would gladly pay an annual or monthly fee for the return of the old platform. And we know brokers in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati who would also pay to have access to the old Yahoo platform again. None of us realized how good the old Yahoo stock platform was until it was taken from us. We have tried to call Mr. Armstrong, but we've had no luck reaching him. Do you know him? Could you help us? We would gladly pay $1,000 a year for access to the old Yahoo stock platform. — 3 Guys in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Dear 3 Guys: Two more guys and you'd have a hamburger franchise.

Don't feel bad that Timmy hasn't responded. He doesn't give a hoot. He won't respond to my letters, either. I wrote to him in September because dozens of readers/investors asked me to write to Oath on their behalf. Timmy is too busy to care.

As you mentioned, Oath is a new subsidiary of Verizon Communications (VZ-$52). Oath serves as the umbrella company for VZ's digital division, including AOL, which was acquired in June 2015, and Yahoo, which was acquired in June of this year. Timmy Armstrong's strategy to generate advertising revenue is "to build global brands people love, build global brand platforms partners love" and "build a global company talent loves." Timmy believes that implementation of his "love" vision will increase user traffic from the current 1.2 billion to 2 billion, a 67 percent increase, in two years. I suspect that Timmy is smoking some of those left-handed Luckys. Timmy and what's left of his AOL people, plus the remaining Yahoo employees, have failed miserably in the past few years to build platforms sufficiently attractive to generate enough advertising dollars to pay the bills and provide a return on investment. For years, Yahoo and AOL failed to attract enough advertising as standalone entities. Now Timmy is playing double jeopardy. By combining two ignominious failures with zero proven talent, there's no flaming way in paradise Oath will contribute a shilling or sixpence to VZ's bottom line. If the past is prologue, it's certain failure all over again, because the Oath folks haven't the foggiest idea what global brands the consumer will love. Timmy's failures at AOL are proof of his future failures. And a manager who doesn't respond to client letters is a failure waiting to happen.

I've sent a list of six services I use. I won't mention their names publicly because it'd be considered unpaid advertising and other names I failed to mention would hound me. These services are not cheap, so I'd recommend that you three combine your purses to subscribe. I've used these research services for at least 20 years. Frankly, their recommendations are only slightly better than the free stuff, but the revenue statements, profit and loss statements, and cash flow statements they publish are wonderfully detailed and give me a clear picture of the company I'm investigating.

Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at [email protected] To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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