The 10 Acquisitions Yahoo's New CEO Should Make on Day One

[ The first acquisition target for Yahoo? Gawker. ]

By Jason Calacanis

A number of folks really liked my "mobile, social and video" plan for Yahoo from yesterday, and asked me privately to expand on my ideas. In fact, a couple of the folks were from inside of Yahoo or immediately "around it" (i.e., folks engaged in the “what the hell do we do with this huge asset”).

Instead of sending this to the insiders I figured I would share it with everyone in the hopes that a) you guys start reading my new blog LAUNCH on a regular basis and b) that you send me the obvious ideas I’m clearly going to miss.

My Yahoo Mission Statement

Yahoo’s Mission: to be the most important content destination in the world.

Yes, you read that correctly, my mission statement for Yahoo is to create the most important content in the world. The content that informs, entertains, shocks, connects with, infuriates and inspires people more than any other content on the planet.

Not an easy task, and you’re not going to get there overnight. A realistic bill for my overhaul  given Yahoo’s huge checkbook and traffic footprint is about a year and under $1B.

You can’t just buy the brands below and solve the problems, you have to buy these brands and build a competitive editorial structure that rewards scoops, page views, likes, comments and user contributions. You need to create an environment where the content creators and product managers are the stars -- not just the developers and sales people.

The Shopping List

1. Gawker: No other publisher has done as good a job of breaking news, tweaking the establishment and building brands over the past decade than Nick Denton’s Gawker. It’s tiny in terms of revenue and traffic when compared to Yahoo, but it’s huge when it comes to influence with writers, advertisers and the elite. Yahoo isn’t going to come up on Ari Gold’s desk in an episode of "Entourage," but Gawker will.  Now, chances are Nick wouldn’t sell, but you never know what $150M in cash and a slot on a public board could accomplish. Yes, I would put Denton on the board of a public company. There. I’ve said it.  

Chance of closing: 10%.  

2. Since you’re not likely going to get Gawker, I’d do the next best thing and take one of the early creators of the Gawker playbook: Lockhart Steele. Curbed is hands down the best editorial product in the real estate space, and I’m certain a $50M to $75M check and a slot on the Yahoo editorial board would get Lock excited enough to cash out.

Chance of closing: 50%+.

3. The Atlantic: Jesus H. Christ how the hell did some antiquated, irrelevant old media brand all of sudden land dozens of the best writers in the world? Oh yeah, they gave them freedom, a killer platform and ownership in a brand they could be proud of. And look here, Gabriel Snyder of Gawker editorial director fame is right there on the masthead. It’s doubtful the class-act David G. Bradley (disclosure: investor in Mahalo), who is loving the beautiful soaring brand he bought in 1999, would sell -- but you don’t know until you put $100M in cash and a seat on the Yahoo board on the table.

Chance of closing: 25%+

4. Metacritic & Chow: Two brilliant asset locked inside of CNET/CBS. I’d give Jim Lanzone, head of CBS Interactive, an easy choice: sell them to us or we’re going to iterate on your brands (a.k.a. we will "Zuck" them). Some simple mockups of  Yahoo Ratings and Yahoo Foodies, and the threat of them being on  the homepage of Yahoo every three days should give Lanzone the proper motivation to sell. He’s savvy enough to fight for some larger distribution deal that won’t kill us. Cost: $10M to $20M each.

Chance of closing: 50%+

5. HowCast & Mahalo: There are only two brands that are really attacking the free education space, and I happen to own one of them. HowCast has a really great library of 10K or so videos, and Mahalo has over 50K (growing at 1k+ a month). Given the importance of continuing education and the power of self-improvement, it’s a no-brainer. Did I mention we launched our first iPad app and it sold 1K copies in the first 10 days?
Cost: $75M to $150M each.

Chance of closing: 50%+.

5. The ability to get the founders of Gizmodo and Engadget in one quick acquisition, as well as a Q&A and review platform that is industry leading, makes this a layup. I can’t say too much about this one since I’m on the board and an angel investor, but Peter Rojas and Ryan Block are two of the top 10 most respected names in all of tech -- and two of the top three in consumer electronics.  You put these two killers in charge of tech, let them revamp Yahoo Answers and create a Yahoo Reviews product, and you’re well on your way to actually building real community at Yahoo again.
Cost: $50M.

Chance of closing: 50%+.

6. This Week in Tech: Leo Laporte has a built a huge video footprint in technology slowly and authentically over the past five years. He’s probably doing $5M a year in revenue and that could be exploded to $50M by leveraging Yahoo’s assets. Backing up $50M, promising editorial freedom and shipping 10M uniques a month to the best podcasts in the business would get Leo to sell I’m certain. He’s long overdue for a well-deserved pay day. (I’d throw in my little copy-cat network to make up with Leo to get the job done. I’ve been looking to repair that burned bridge for a while).

Chance of closing: 50%+

7. Business Insider: Henry Blodget is the single best content creator at Yahoo who doesn’t work for Yahoo. He’s a genius in finance, and Yahoo Finance has rested on its laurels long enough. Nick Denton was in awe of Blodget the last time we lunched -- and that’s high praise from the best publisher on the planet today. Plus Blodget is shameless in his pursuit of page views. He’ll plaster the Yahoo Homepage with his signature slideshows, contributing meaningfully to my goal of doubling the length of visits.
Cost: $100M will get it done.

Chance of closing: 50%+

8. Sugar Publishing: Brian Sugar and his wife Lisa have locked down the female audience over the past five years. Women make most of the buying decisions for families, certainly the most important ones, and marketers love them for it. I’m going to need a cutting-edge female-centric team if I’m going get Madison Avenue excited again.
Cost: $100M.

Chance of closing: 50%+.

9. Flipboard. A great, great app that could be skinned across every Yahoo property. $150M would get it done, and if it doesn’t, you could knock off the technology for $10M internally. I think I just talked myself into just building it actually.

Chance of closing: 10%.

10. Robert Scoble. Yeah, I know he’s just a dude with a huge following in tech, but he literally sees every single new piece of technology and he’s my favorite loveable, loopy, social media savant. I’m buying him out of RackSpace in exchange for $1M in Yahoo advertising and giving him and Rocky a team of five documentarians and a huge blogger lounge in the middle of the Yahoo campus just to draw nerds to the place.

Chance of closing: 95%.

If Yahoo closed half of these investments, Yahoo’s editorial board could include Henry Blodget, Peter Rojas, Lockhart Steele, Gabriel Snyder, Ryan Block, Leo Laporte, Brian and Lisa Sugar, Mike McCue, Robert Scoble, Nick Denton and yours truly.

That’s a sick, sick, sick amount of firepower.

Right about now, three dozen Yahoo sales people are printing this email out and running it to  Ross Levinsohn’s office screaming, “Please for the love of God do what Calacanis is saying.... we can sell the living sh@#$t out of this plan!!!”

The plan would cost well under $1B to execute on, and it would make Yahoo the most important display advertising company on the internet, while putting it well on its way to completing the mission of being “the most important content destination in the world.”

If someone from Yahoo’s finance department drops off the check, I’ll get started this week.