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Yahoo's Bartz: "I love being a public company CEO"

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter

SAN FRANCISCO (CNNMoney.com) -- Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz took the stage at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco to field two key questions: What is Yahoo, and will it soon be taken private?

"Maybe it's taken me years, but I got it," Bartz said. "I think Yahoo is a simple story: we're a tech company, we're content, we're media, we're innovative. We have that quality, and it allows us to really personalize the Web."

Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) went "off track" when it was viewed as a search company, Bartz said. She called online search "an arms race," adding that search algorithms face a huge set of challenges in trying in to stay relevant.

But Bartz got defensive when asked about critics who say Yahoo lacks an identity: "When you get 30 miles outside Silicon Valley and 60 miles out of New York, everyone knows what Yahoo stands for. They don't ask these trick questions."

Yahoo remains one of the Web's largest content networks, and serves 18 billion ads a day, Bartz said. Like every other Web giant, the company is under pressure to come up with a social strategy that will help it retain users amid Facebook's meteoric growth.

"Social doesn't exist just one place on the Internet," Bartz said. "We're not trying to copy anybody. People don't go to Facebook or Yahoo -- they go to Facebook and Yahoo."

Bartz wouldn't comment on the recent rumors that Yahoo is under pressure to merge with another company or go private. "You know I can't, as a public CEO," she said, adding coyly, "I love being a public company CEO. Write that down."

Conference moderator John Battelle steered clear of the other Yahoo news item swirling around: Reports that the company is preparing for a round of significant layoffs. Instead, he engaged Bartz in a word association game.

Apple: "Beatles."

Twitter: "Tweet."

Microsoft: "Partner."

Facebook: "Competition."

HP: [Pause] "Where's Leo?" [Apotheker, the new HP CEO]

Google: "Great company," Bartz concluded, pointing at Battelle as she laughed. "Couldn't get me on that one." To top of page

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