At Yahoo, style over substance and the style was, well -- weird

Give Marissa Mayer credit for trying something new but there's a good reason why most quarterly financial conferences don't get televised.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
2 min read
CEO Marissa Mayer and CFO Ken Goldman face the cameras. Yahoo

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer gets a B for trying something different: a live video stream of Yahoo's second quarter earnings. She still gets a gentlewoman's C for what remained another uninspiring earnings report. After a year at the helm, Mayer still has a lot of work ahead before she can declare mission accomplished.

In the meantime, she made the show interesting with a certain style, even when that style was at times, well, odd. Think Hans & Franz, but without the yuks.

There's nothing in the rule book that says tradition can't be set aside, but there's a reason why most quarterly financial conferences don't get televised. With few exceptions, they're dry-as-dust bore-fests, virtually guaranteed to send normal people into narcoleptic stupors. They're also full of self-serving malarkey where the management in charge of company X, Y, or Z will inevitably tout the mystical, magical, and otherwise supercalifragilisticexpialidocious attributes of their minions.

So it was with Mayer, talking off the teleprompter as she ticked off one superlative after another. Dutiful but not surprising. (IE: "Yahoo's future is mobile.") She was slightly more engaging once the Q&A opened up. Not by much, though. It got a lot worse when CFO Ken Goldman took his turn in front of the camera.

Goldman, who flanked Mayer on the set, has a gold-plated resume and is an accomplished numbers guy. But the guy is no public speaker. Goldman's wooden delivery is bad enough. He also eats the endings of polysyllabic words as he rushes through his lines. OK, Goldman wasn't hired to make people forget about Cicero. I get that. But if Yahoo's going to pry its chief financial officer away from his spreadsheet for this sort of dog-and-pony performance, then style points count. Especially when the substance is modest.

Still, it wasn't a complete wash-out. On the bright side, both "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show" now have great fodder to use for future skits.