Now in her second year as CEO, Marissa Mayer hopes to transform Yahoo into a mobile-age media company.  To do so she is putting fresh blood into Yahoo’s research and development department.  She has already hired 30 new PhDs this year and plans to add another 20 before the year is out.  A major focus will likely be on Yahoo’s search functionalities (“Can Marissa Mayer Save Yahoo?” Brad Stone with Douglas MacMillan, Bloomberg Businessweek, 8/5/13–8/11/13, pp. 44–49):

Although Google dominates [search] and Yahoo has had Microsoft power its search engine for the last three years, Mayer still believes Yahoo can find new ways to present search results.  ‘Search is far from over,’ she says, ‘It’s physics in the 1600s or biology in the 1800s.  There’s miles to go before you get to quantum physics or even a microscope.  There’s a lot of that you can do once you have mobile, and we are going to be very focused on the user experience.’” (p. 48)

What Mayer claims about search-engine technology and use is probably true.  However, even if Yahoo can take the lead in this arena, Mayer still has to pull it all together with monetization.  This is always the challenge when it comes to online services.  Mayer herself may not be the best person to take point on that:

For all her credibility with engineers, Mayer is an unknown to Yahoo’s biggest advertisers.  ‘To be out there meeting with clients and advertisers is not her thing,’ says Marla Kaplowitz, the chief of media agency MEC North America.  As for its products, ‘Yahoo still needs to be a lot more nimble,’ says Kaplowitz, noting that running large ad campaigns across Yahoo’s stable of services is particularly cumbersome.” (p. 49)

The future of Yahoo is not an easy or a guaranteed ride, but it will be an interesting one.  Given the circumstances, no one would expect any different.  That is the challenge Marissa has engaged.  For her sake, and for Yahoo’s sake, she had better be successful.

About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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