Here's the thing: For synergy to work, you have to combine two things into a more effective whole. Yet Yahoo has gone out of its way to say it won't do anything to tick off Tumblr users.
By that, I can only assume it means that it won't try to rebrand Tumblr as a Yahoo property or actively seek to steer Tumblr users toward Yahoo services. If so, what's the point?
Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion. The deal, needless to say, was dripping with synergy.
Yet even though YouTube remains largely an independent brand, all data generated by the site — particularly video searches — contribute massively to Google's dossiers of what pretty much every Internet user is interested in.
YouTube also positions Google as the main gatekeeper to the Net's video content, which is an enviable position to hold.
What will Yahoo get from Tumblr? Apparently it won't be millions of new users for its search engine, email or other services. Nor will it be the opportunity to blanket the well-trafficked site with ads.
One thing it will get, though, is lots of naughty bits. A good deal of Tumblr's content is pornographic, so much so that I'd get in trouble just putting a link here.
Mayer said Monday that Yahoo will "let Tumblr be Tumblr." But it's an open question whether advertisers will be thrilled to be associated, even indirectly, with some very explicit material. Just wait until the family-values crowd gets wind of what's out there.
Ultimately, Yahoo seems to be figuring that it's got a bunch of cash on hand and that it needs to roll the dice on a potentially rewarding move. You can't fault such reasoning.
But I've always been wary of this notion of buying your way to success. The best businesses don't seem to follow that recipe. They do it old school. They come up with an exciting product and then win customers through superior service.
They also adhere to the funny idea that profit matters and that the possibility of stratospheric growth isn't the same as actual growth.
Or maybe I'm just being an old fogy again.