Wednesday, December 05, 2007

News from Yahoo!: Sounds good to this Yahoo! Investor

PaidContent covers the recent Yahoo! management reshuffling. Fewer silos, less bloat, more thinking about what users want? Hey, it sounds like what the doctor ordered to this Yahoo! investor....

Yahoo Interviews: Jeff Weiner, EVP & Scott Moore; SVP: Super Mass vs. Super Niche

By Staci D. Kramer - Tue 04 Dec 2007 11:10 PM PST

For a sense of how important the properties are that make up the newly constituted media group at Yahoo, (NSDQ: YHOO) consider this: more than half of the 137 million uniques visiting Yahoo sites in October—70 million or 51.2 percent—visited at least one of the media sites. (That’s an un-duplicated ComScore (NSDQ: SCOR) number provided by Yahoo PR at my request.) And for a sense of mission consider this: it isn’t enough. That’s why Scott Moore, whose news, sports and finance sites already are the kind of “starting points” demanded by Yahoo’s latest strategy, has been given the entertainment properties as well. Moore reports to
Jeff Weiner, EVP of the Network division, also home of search, the front door experience, communities, e-mail, and more. I spoke with the two separately by phone following the official announcement of the changes. Lots more after the jump…

Timing: Why now? Weiner: “I think it’s very consistent with the timing of Jerry and Sue articulating the company’s strategies and priorities.” One of the three primary objectives now: to be the leading starting point, the place people go to begin their online experience. To achieve that, Yahoo wants as many of its areas as possible to be top starting points; it’s up to Weiner’s team to deliver.

Slimfast and silos: Weiner wanted greater efficiency so the division shed product lines, reducing from 6 to 4, and broke up as many silos as possible. Also a change in approach: “We’ve historically taken more of a product approach, want to take more of a consumer approach.” That means thinking about the network experience across sites and product lines. As for media, “we want to think more holistically ... in the past, we had more silos than we liked.” He added later: “We’re increasing Scott’s span of control. He can now prioritize. ... This is the best way to leverage.” Moore: “The properties in my group are areas Yahoo has to decided to invest in to create an experience for the audience.”

Graphical media model: Trying to figure out how autos and real estate wound up with media while travel, among others, went to search? In Yahoo-speak, the media properties are based on the “graphic media model”—display advertising and increasingly video. Weiner: “It gives us an opportunity to start to create a more unified go-to-market approach in terms of those media assets.” Moore thought he might get travel, too, but it turns out that the bulk of travel’s revenue comes from transactions/listings, not display, so it went to search. Ditto for the marketplace units based on listings.

Thinking big: Moore is in the process of undoing his own ideas about creating and evolving sites, moving from a belief in niche sites like food and tech—which he launched—to the realization that Yahoo needs to think bigger—not smaller. Moore: “We couldn’t just keep launching smaller sites. We couldn’t just keep adding sites like food or tech or that kind of thing indefinitely. We need to chunk things up into larger areas.” Instead, he’s looking at a very small number of categories with high frequency. News, finance, sports, entertainment probably. Lifestyles is the same—lots of subcategories don’t meet the bar. “We have to think about what the audience cares about and work back; we don’t have to build the deepest food site out there.” Think super mass vs. super niche. “We want to win in every category where we compete.” Sometimes that will mean partnerships, sometimes building.

Music: Moore is still coming up to speed on the entertainment properties, including music. He points to the 22 million in traffic it gets, but admits it needs work. As for the possibility of shutting down streaming music because of the change in royalty fees, Moore said: “All that is going to hinge on the negotiations going on right now. ... My guess there is that the industry will work out some form of agreement.”

Video: In the last year Yahoo has cut the number of video players down from 16. “We want to get very quickly to a place where we have a cohesive video strategy about how we play back video across different experiences.”

Media leadership team: Moore: “This is like a merger, not a takeover” so don’t expect a lot of changes. (Should have more clarity on this Wednesday when media holds an all-hands meeting.) After we spoke, Valleywag started pitching a story about Neil Budde, VP-news, leaving. I just heard from Budde and it doesn’t sound like he’s going anywhere other than on the road promoting Yahoo.

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