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Yahoo shuts down another company

Yahoo has yet again shuttered a company it bought. And, as usual, a company that nobody had ever heard of, but one that appears to be quite useful.

Yahoo has a tendency of finding an up-and-coming company, deciding that it would be a great addition to its portfolio, and shelling out big bucks to buy it. It then lets the company languish and inevitably shutters it. By that point the decision is always something of a surprise because most people didn't know the company existed in the first place. Upon learning of its existence though, these people wonder: "Hey, this was a pretty good idea. What gives?"

The shuttered project du jour is called Upcoming. It is essentially a universal calendar program for local and national events. Looking for something to do in London? Well Upcoming has a list of cool goings-on (at least until 30 April, when it will close up shop).

Generally, the local newspapers cover much of this but there's certainly potential with the service since it can be more up-to-date and has more categories. It is particularly useful for tourists who may not know of specific news outlets to find events.

It seems to me that the opportunity to monetise this was too easy. With value-added content attached to the site, you'd think this would be a one-stop shopping centre for advertisers promoting events. Apparently not.

In many of the buyouts I see no rhyme or reason for the purchase unless it is just to throw money away. "Let's buy them; the owners could use the money." It's almost a form of philanthropy.

An excellent essay from 2011 entitled "What Happens After Yahoo Acquires You" describes the circumstances of many of these Yahoo acquisitions. In the author's opinion, the real problem is that these smart little companies get bogged down by Yahoo's hell-pit-of-doom bureaucracy.

This is not going to change with Marissa Mayer, despite what she says. From what I hear she likes endless meetings. Her reported methodology is to start late and run over, which only adds to the problem.

How about approaching the situation from a new angle? Buy the company, let it languish as usual, and announce that it will be shuttered. Then – and this is where we change things up – gauge the response. People who have never heard of the product will write it up and complain. But at least now the product will be known. Then, make a big deal about the fact that you are going to save it. If the reaction is good (now that people know about it) then it stays alive.

That would undoubtedly be some creative marketing on Yahoo's part, but I'd be stunned if the company ever got that creative.