Nielsen has just released September Netview data and the numbers would be causing a few sighs over at Yahoo!7
Just over 6 weeks ago Yahoo!7 PR was out in force trumpeting the success of their Olympics initiative - and with good reason - it was pretty successful.
However most insiders were more concerned with what they could do with the audience once the Olympics were over. Could they hold enough of them and bring them into the Yahoo!7 fold (be it through Mail, Messenger, Answers, News, Homepage) to become regular users.
The first warning sign would have been last month when the Nielsen data showed Yahoo!7 didn't actually add any new users in August of 08 (when compared to July) - most would have expected an incremental gain in user numbers as a result of an official Olympics alliance at the very least. It wouldn't be too bold to predict internally Yahoo!7 would have forecasted a 10-20% traffic increase.
However this would have seemed like a minor blow compared to the traffic king hit the site experienced in September, down 9% from 5.35m uniques to 4.87m uniques.
This drop mirrors the drop Yahoo!7 experience just after the 2006 World Cup. Remember, the World Cup site in 06 was a Yahoo! co-brand and the traffic fell into Yahoo's topline. However once the action stopped in Germany, the traffic left and didn't return.
On these current September numbers, Yahoo!7 has less momentum with its audience than it did pre Olympics, which is undoubtedly the worst possible outcome for the site.
You can bet the financial investment required to secure the online rights to the Olympics was a mid term initiative financially - based on using the Olympic brand as a carrot to bring new eyeballs to the site and Yahoo!7 working out a way to transition these people into long term users.
Tough questions will no doubt be asked. How has this happened? Did the company have a real plan to try and keep the Olympics traffic it generated? Why, with the number 1 TV network is this JV not generating much traction with users over 2 years in? What has happened to Rohan Lund's vision of being a leader in news, homepage, mail and search?
These are prickly questions - but it seems now globally the Yahoo! brand is being forced to address them across the board as the share price flounders. How will it address these issues it is facing in AU?
The only question I have is, what is Yahoo7's strategy? It's hard to see a real direction from an outsiders point of view.
At the same time, Yahoo!'s main competitors either held their audience in September or grew marginally.
Ninemsn and Fairfax Digital held topline audience numbers, whilst News Digital Media grew 4% (up 150k users)