Vanity Fair has a post-mortem about Marissa Mayer's attempts to refashion Yahoo as a media company. It has been a high-profile and extended ordeal and we won't recount the whole thing here, but there are a couple of things I thought were interesting from the article:
The glamorous C.E.O. wanted instead to upgrade her site by hiring a roster of big-name journalistic talent. One of her initial observations of us, one former Yahoo executive told me, was that we don't have big-enough names.
Yahoo's plan to hire high-profile talents, from Katie Couric to David Pogue to Bobbi Brown, was largely ineffective. While they all had dedicated followings and were successful within their own expertise, there were few synergies by combining them all onto one site. When users know that they can easily jump from one platform to another in search of the celebrities and content they care about, why pay up to bring them all into a single corporate brand?
When users know that they can easily jump from one platform to another in search of the celebrities and content they care about, why pay up to bring them all into a single corporate brand?
The other interesting thing about Yahoo's business strategy is how they edit their home page.
Crucially, Yahoo's billion-person-a-month home page is run by an algorithm, with a spare editorial staff, that pulls in the best-performing content from across the site. One current employee explained that Yahoo's algorithm serves up individualized content depending on a user's habits. So if someone is complaining about seeing too much Kim Kardashian, this person said, let's stop lying that you are not clicking on it.
Their programmatic approach allows them to adapt their home page for a billion monthly users because human editors would never be able to recreate that sort of personalized experience. If one were really to identify Yahoo's intrinsic value, it could very well be that algorithm. The data they have allows for incredible insights into the patterns of content consumption. And I suspect that the next owners of Yahoo will want to celebrate that.