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A New Future For Yahoo? What’s The Deal With Marissa Mayer?

Five chief execs in three years is not a stat to be proud of, but has Yahoo found the answer to its busi­ness woes in the shape of new CEO and Google turn­coat Maris­sa Mayer?

The tur­bu­lence expe­ri­enced by Yahoo over the past few years looks set to con­tin­ue a lit­tle while longer after the sur­prise appoint­ment of for­mer Google exec May­er as its new CEO. While most peo­ple could be for­giv­en for think­ing that this time the job might land in the lap of long-suf­fer­ing inter­im CEO Ross Levin­sohn, it seems the board had oth­er ideas. As May­er walked in the door, Levin­sohn walked out.

With­out the expe­ri­ence and con­tact book of Levin­sohn its felt that May­er might strug­gle to make her mark – par­tic­u­lar­ly as she lacks the adver­tis­ing know-how of her pre­de­ces­sor and that cer­tain­ly seems to be where the sector’s head­ed. Unique and inno­v­a­tive prod­ucts are great, but you need to make mon­ey to devel­op them and that’s where the adver­tis­ing dol­lars count.

Indus­try Experience

No one can deny that May­er has the cre­den­tials. She was one of only 20 employ­ees when she joined Google in 1999 as their first female engi­neer and dur­ing her tenure she over­saw the company’s famous min­i­mal home­page lay­out. She was also instru­men­tal in the devel­op­ment of Google Maps, Books and Prod­uct Search, as well as Tool­bar, iGoogle and Gmail.

As an engi­neer — a tec­chie — what can May­er bring to the table to ensure Yahoo begins to gen­er­ate some much-need­ed cash and sails into calmer waters?

Future Plans

A 21% drop in sales to just under $5billion in 2011 saw Yahoo users spend­ing less than three hours on the site in May this year. Sounds okay until you learn that the Face­book users spent an aver­age of six hours on that site dur­ing the same peri­od. Cou­pled with the fact that the busi­ness has gone through five CEOs in three years, means all eyes are on May­er and every­one is keen to see what her first move might be.

In the few weeks since her appoint­ment May­er has already stat­ed that she intends to make some strate­gic hires and even dab­ble in acqui­si­tions to get Yahoo back on track and devel­op­ing more inno­v­a­tive products.

An inter­est­ing arti­cle writ­ten by Kara Swish­er and pub­lished recent­ly by make some pre­dic­tions about how May­er is like­ly to shake things up, but also points out that fol­low­ing the appoint­ment, a num­ber of key Yahoo-ers fol­lowed Ross Levin­sohn out the door.

Adam Bech­tel, for­mer vp of Infra­struc­ture has moved on to Apple, while prod­uct whizz Jonathan Katz­man. A vital mem­ber of the team behind ‘Social Bar, one of Yahoo’s most suc­cess­ful devel­op­ments so far, which is used wide­ly for shar­ing on Face­book,  Katz­man with join the Min­er­va Project as chief prod­uct offi­cer. Oth­er less high-pro­file employ­ees have also moved on, or announced an inten­tion to do so.

As some leave, so oth­ers, includ­ing a num­ber of for­mer Google execs, make their appear­ance in the board­room, includ­ing Google PR exec Anne Espir­i­tu as new head of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Oth­er pos­si­ble hires from the Google camp include shop­ping exec Samir Samat and social net­work­ing guru Orkut Büyükkökten.

“It’s not Mayer’s fault, but some of us are just done,” said one per­son who is leav­ing. “A lot of us just can’t take anoth­er restructuring.”

It seems Mayer’s tech knowl­edge might not be as impor­tant as her peo­ple skills if she wants to turn Yahoo’s for­tunes around.

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