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Yahoo's Bartz: We 'somehow got boring'

The company is trying hard to right its ship, and will try to convince analysts with a day-long presentation Wednesday that it is a rightful player in future of the Internet.

Yahoo continues to pull out all the stops in hopes of convincing investors and advertisers that even though it's a massive media and technology company today, it has a plan for the future.

"Today is the beginning of a journey back to respect," said Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz in a meeting with financial analysts at Yahoo's headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. "Yahoo was the big shining star in the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, and then somehow we weren't so shiny anymore."

The all-day meeting, which is being Webcast, is designed to reconnect Yahoo with the financial community, something Bartz hinted earlier this year was long overdue in comments she made in New York. Ever since former Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang turned down a $33 per share offer from Microsoft in 2008, Yahoo's stock has languished at about half that value, and with the economy taking a turn for the worse, even a tepid recovery has been seen as welcome news.

Bartz brought a team of Yahoo leaders up on stage to show off what they've been doing to take better advantage of Yahoo's enormous reach across the Internet. For example, Tapan Bhat, senior vice president for integrated consumer experience, talked about how Yahoo's redesigned home page has increased the amount of time spent on that page by 20 percent, and click-through has likewise improved on both ads and content on that page.

Bryan Lamkin, senior vice president for applications, pledged to improve spam filters and duplicate the Yahoo Mail experience on mobile phones. And Jimmy Pitaro, vice president of media, ran through all of the plans his group has to increase the number of people who come to Yahoo for news and entertainment.

Clearly, Yahoo already operates on a grand scale. "We are a broad-based Internet technology company that serves up the most interesting content on the Internet to 600 million people," Bartz said.

But advertisers "are looking for a safe neighborhood," Bartz said. She meant that in order to get high-quality advertisers to spend lots of money with Yahoo, they have to give them high-quality content that they can feel confident about putting their message beside. Perhaps Bartz could throw that lesson in for free as part of the search deal with Microsoft.

Throughout the revival story Yahoo has tried so hard to push this year, there's a sense that the company is a little defensive about being seen as a place where innovation no longer happens. Bartz admitted that "we had kind of lost your respect" over the past few years. "We are a 14-year-old Internet company that somehow got boring."

Analyst days are not exactly the most exciting events produced by public companies. But it's all part of Yahoo's attempt to re-insert itself in the conversation about the future of the Internet, and investors will need to be on board for the company to make any real progress: not to mention that employee retention could get easier if the stock starts to climb.

Corrected 3:35 p.m. PDT with the correct spelling of Bryan Lamkin's name.