Yahoo! defends Panama, touts position


NEW YORK -- As Wall Street continues to question Yahoo! Inc.'s advertising strategy and its ability to withstand challenges from startups, a Yahoo! ad sales executive defended her company here Tuesday.

"We're growing and are continuing to grow," Yahoo! chief sales officer Wenda Harris Millard said at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference. "We have the lead by far in every single category."

Earlier in the day, Goldman Sachs analyst Anthony Noto sounded a note of caution about Yahoo!'s new Panama initiative, a search-marketing platform designed to make Internet advertising easier for marketers. In a report, he questioned if advertisers will take the time to learn the new system or simply jump to Google or MSN, among other things.

"The visibility of the financial impact of Panama remains limited based on our checks with numerous advertisers," Noto wrote. "As advertisers have to move up the learning curve in bidding and buying strategies, potential frictional costs could slow spending in the upcoming months ahead of long-term financial benefits."

Millard said she was excited about Panama and that it will be beneficial to advertisers. She didn't give specifics as to when the technology will be fully rolled out, but she said Panama will "serve across platforms" and it is a "very comprehensive and holistic technology."

Millard also downplayed the threat to Yahoo! of sites, such as News Corp.'s MySpace and Google's YouTube, which rely heavily on user-generated content, saying "very, very few companies" are doing a good job at monetizing such content. "There's a lot of inventory," she said. "But how do you make money?"