Not only was she named as the new Yahoo! CEO today – but she’s also announced that she’s expecting her first child. That’s up there with Mark Zuckerberg’s graduation-IPO-wedding triple whammy earlier this year.
At the time of writing, Yahoo! is worth over $19B. It’s certainly languished for the better part of a decade, and some of its leadership choices have been questionable. But it’s huge in Asia, its news and sports sites are the #1 in their respective categories, its APIs are widely used, Yahoo! Mail remains more popular than Gmail, and it still owns sites like the much-loved Flickr (which I’ve been using for years).
There’s a lot of potential energy in Yahoo!, ready to be converted into success.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, under Mayer, it became the new, friendly home for broadcast media. Here’s CNBC’s coverage of the CEO announcement, and here’s the corresponding coverage from Fox Business. Both are hosted on Yahoo!’s Screen portal, which also has deals with ABC News, MLB, the NBA, the NFL and the NHL – and I’m picking names out of a very large hat here. It’s worked hard for its friendly status with the content companies, and if you combine that with its content analysis technologies, aptitude for smart feeds and real social tech, as well as true hardware agnosticism, you’re looking at what could be a very interesting platform for 21st century content consumption. (Don’t believe me? Jason Kilar, Hulu’s CEO, was under heavy consideration for the leadership post until he bowed out.)
That focus would also sidestep Yahoo!’s biggest bugbear: the perception that it’s a search engine / web index directly in Google’s space. Yes, its origins lie there, but Google’s emphasis on algorithms would be an uphill struggle to beat – and while the Yahoo! Directory still exists, it’s clearly not the company’s prime focus. (Also, it’s worth considering that Mayer likely still has Google stock.) Better to embrace the spirit of Yahoo!’s early years and provide a space on the Internet that’s more about DNA than data.
Yahoo! won’t be an algorithm; it won’t be a click farm that tricks the user into building their own direct marketing profile. It’ll be a curated series of channels full of the stuff you care about. That’s its strength, and that’s what it should concentrate on.