Using data from Comscore and eMarketer, Bear Stearns tries to make a case for Yahoo! entering the social networking space.  The two key points are 1) Social networks are growing much faster than the "traditional portals" and 2) Will social networks become the new portal?  Jeff Jarvis had the right response:

It made me want to scream:

Portals are dead, damnit. They are the last vestige of old-media bigthink, of the misguided belief that media can corral us into masses and that we want to be treated like herds. The essential moral to the story of Yahoo’s decline is that it is a portal and portals don’t work. But here’s Bear Sterns looking for the next portal. Arrrggghhh.

Bear says that "social networking sites may have Ad Dollar Splintering (ADS) effects."  Yes.  But of course.  The issue they’re missing is that everything on the web from now on is going to have an Ad Dollar Splintering effect.  The idea, as Jeff precisely explains, is to get one’s content and advertising well distributed on the web:

…Yahoo should blow itself up and become the unportal, enabling anyone anywhere to take anything from Yahoo and put it on their own sites, feeding content — which Google doesn’t have — and advertising all around the web, becoming the great enabler of social interaction via content rather than buying Facebook.

Yahoo_price_chartFacebook may in fact be the next portal, where eyeballs go for entertainment on the web, at the expense of Yahoo!  But I agree with Jeff – portals don’t work.