Can Marissa Mayer turn Yahoo around?
(CBS News) Marissa Mayer was named Yahoo's new chief executive officer just two weeks ago, but big changes are already happening at the struggling online company. One of those changes includes the exit of top official Ross Levinsohn. He was passed over twice for the top job at Yahoo.
Yahoo has seen an immense turnover in recent years with seven CEOs in the last five years. Many of them have wasted billions on failed acquisitions, deals gone bad, and taken their eye off the ball. The company has missed all the best opportunities and pounced on all the worst. A few of the deals they haven't done? Not buying Google for a song 10 years ago, and not taking a Microsoft buyout of more than twice their value today four years ago.
Now with Levinsohn out, the ball is entirely in Mayer's court to turn this company around.
Just two weeks into her new job as Yahoo's CEO and Mayer is already making strides to motivate the company's staff, including removing the cash register from the cafeteria.
Experts agree it will take a lot more than a free lunch to get the one-time tech giant back on its feet.
Tech expert David Kirkpatrick, of Techonomy Media, told CBS News, "Levinson has been the de facto CEO for a while. And I'm sure he was deeply disappointed that he didn't get it. ... He's a media guy, you know, an ad guy. Really good at it. A lot of people, including me, thought he'd be quite acceptable as a CEO."
Tobby Coppel, former Yahoo chief strategy officer, said, "(Mayer) has less experience in working with Madison Avenue and working with advertisers, understanding their needs."
Still, Coppel says hiring Mayer away from Google was the right move at the right time. Coppel said, "She understands the industry as well as anyone else you could possibly point to in the industry, which is fantastic. She has vision the company also needs, in terms of setting the direction."
That new direction is expected to make Yahoo look a lot like Google. Those free meals for instance: a perk long-enjoyed by Google employees.
When asked if it's Mayer's objective to compete with Google or do something entirely different from the search giant, Kirkpatrick said, "Well, you can't help but compete with Google if you're Yahoo because you're vying for ad revenue from the same advertisers."
Before Google became a verb, it was Yahoo that defined internet search. Now, their once dominant search engine has stalled to a mere 13 percent share of the market. Most agree rebuilding it should not be Mayer's priority.
Kirkpatrick said, "I don't think there's any hope that Yahoo's ever going to be a major player in search. They've outsourced their search to Microsoft now."
Fixing Yahoo, Kirkpatrick said, will require a renewed focus on what's working well. With nearly 600 million monthly visitors, Yahoo is just behind Facebook and YouTube as one of the web's most visited sites.
"Mail is the main thing she should focus on," Kirkpatrick said. "And unless it becomes as good as Gmail, I think Yahoo's long-term future is really in jeopardy. And also if they can find new clever ways to get them when they go to mail to go and check out other properties, which people do. I mean Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Finance and their news, even their video programming, is top quality."
Kirkpatrick said he "totally" thinks Yahoo can be fixed. "I think you can fix anything with proper vision and commitment. And honestly Marissa has that."
Whether Yahoo demonstrates the same level of commitment to Mayer remains to be seen. She is the company's seventh CEO in five years.
Mayer has a year to turn things around at the company, according to Kirkpatrick. He said, "If you don't see momentum at Yahoo within a year, maybe only nine months, she's going to start to be seen as, maybe not a failure, but not as good as we had hoped. If she fails, she'll probably still get a great job somewhere else after this. She is headed for a long career as one of the leaders of technology."
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