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Yahoo! Hires New CEO, Google's Marissa Mayer. And?

Summary: Yahoo! hires it's fifth CEO in the last year, but this time it's long-time Googler Marissa Mayer. If anyone can turn things around, she may be the one, but so far no specific plans have been revealed. If you only follow two links from this post, make them the insightful opinions from Sriram Krishnan and Danny Sullivan toward the end. If you haven't heard Monday's news about Yahoo! hiring Google executive Marissa Mayer as their new President and CEO, then you probably don't care. But should you? Should anyone? Obviously no details have been released about exactly what Marissa's plans are for Yahoo!, so it's unclear what the future holds, but if their goal is to remain relevant as a search engine in any capacity, MM better be bringing a giant bag of tricks over from the big G. As we just learned last week, saying Yahoo!'s got their work cut out for them would be quite an understatement (emphasis mine):
Google’s share of the U.S. search engine market stood at 66.8 percent as of June – topping its record 66.7 percent, set the month prior. Google commanded 65.5 percent of the U.S. search market a year ago. Nearest competitor Bing still remains far behind Google, despite seeing continued incremental growth and setting its own, far less spectacular record. Bing grew its search market share to 15.6 percent, up from 15.4 percent in May and up from 14.4 percent a year ago. For third-place Yahoo, search lost once again, falling from 13.4 percent in May to 13 percent in June. Yahoo’s search share was at 15.9 percent last year – at the time good for second place behind Google.
It's important to note that Bing began powering Yahoo!'s organic results on 8/24/10, so clearly that move was a flop. It would be hard to spin a success story out of this two year-old experiment when year 2 saw the loss of roughly 3% more of the SE market share. By the way, despite the fact that Bing and Yahoo! organic results should have appeared virtually identical for nearly 2 years, I've never personally observed this to be the case. They're very close, but I'd say there's usually about a 15-30% difference still. The bottom line is that Bing and Yahoo! can jockey for position all day long, but their combined market share is still less than half of Google's. Personally I feel like each of these companies would be better off focusing their energies elsewhere, but at the same time I concede that they hold enough of a position to justify staying in the search game if they aren't losing money. Bing in particular, backed by Microsoft money, might be able to make the case that they're staying in the fight as an alternative if something suddenly drives a mass exodus from Google (further security and privacy violations, etc.). But come on, Yahoo!? It continues to fall after most of us had assumed they'd hit rock bottom. How do they right that ship? Well, Yahoo! brought on as their fifth CEO in a year, someone who has been wildly success as at Google since it was a tiny start-up of fewer than 20 people back in 1999. With an estimated net worth of $300 million and 13 years with the biggest name in search, one has to assume Yahoo! shelled out some serious cash to poach someone like Marissa Mayer. But again, the question is - why? No one denies she's a proven talent, but you'd have to be nuts to think that Yahoo! can crawl back in and become a major player in the search game by throwing a bunch of cash at a big name exec. Again, these Yahoos are throwing up a Hail Mary here, so one would think (or hope) that they have some sort of general plan that they need a hard driving executive to shepherd them through. Certainly they would have discussed options throughout the interview and hiring process because they can bring a thousand big names on board, but they're dead in the water without big ideas (Side note:Why am I using so many aquatic cliches today?). My initial gut reaction is that Yahoo! is failing so miserably as a search engine, the jig is up and Marissa is here to help them reinvent themselves. The question is - reinvent themselves as what? They aren't going to break in to blogging, social media, photo sharing, video, news, finance, etc. These are all areas they've dabbled in over the years before being left in the dust in recent years. People have now have their service of choice and aren't going to get excited for "Yahoo! video" or some other done-to-death offering. Unless Marissa knows something we don't about mistakes Google is about to make, Yahoo! better have the next big "Facebook/YouTube/Twitter/Pinterest" idea. (And again, not something that tries to compete with those dominant companies). So we don't know much, other than that the failing Yahoo! poached a heavy hitting executive with a reputation for success dating back to Google's inception in 99, and we assumed she didn't come cheap. Yahoo!'s own press release was as vague as you could imagine. So where does that leave us? Without any specifics, the internet (community) has sought to make their own story this week. First came the "OMG She's Pregnant!" and "Pregnant CEO" shock, (a fact Yahoo! knew before hiring her), followed by the expected claims of concern for her Mayer's baby if she truly intends to take just a few weeks maternity leave when the baby arrives in October. The predictable girl-power toned "she can have it all!" pieces were in the mix, including of course the "But Can You?" question (if you aren't as rich). And if you don't believe me about the obsession and saturation of articles about her pregnancy, specifically the maternity leave aspect, just check out this Google News search for "Marissa Mayer Maternity Leave". Business Insider even offered some fluff on her "Fabulous Life." BTW, if you're like me, you must be just dying to know if Mayer considers herself a feminist! Nobody knows anything, so a bunch of people with unoriginal thoughts took to their blogs to bloviate about what it all means for female executives and motherhood, rather than what it means for Yahoo! Pssst: this is a business story, and her personal life should be the least of anyone's concern. If this is the crap you jackals want to waste your time on, grab a copy of People and read about Snooki's pregnancy. Meanwhile, the grownups will leave Marissa Mayer's personal life alone and talk about Yahoo!'s future, even if speculation is all we've got at this point. I will say that at least Business Insider has produced a few interesting stories since the big announcement. For starters, they claim to have talked to an anonymous source close to the Yahoo! board who offered some insight in to why Yahoo! chose Mayer. Another BI piece reports on what current Yahoo! employees say needs fixing. Spoiler Alert: A lot needs fixing. Really though, many of the complaints are about management - structure, turnover and competency - which isn't that unusual, but there does seem to somewhat of a consensus. Perhaps Marissa's early days we be help reorganizing and cleaning house? Given the tale of two Marissas BI talks about in this piece, she won't be afraid to hurt anyone's feelings. Even more interesting is a piece entitles "Unsolicited Advice for Marissa Mayer" from former employee Sriram Krishnan who hits on a lot of great points regarding issues with the company, but in a positive way that offers ways that MM can turn things around. The bottom line is that Mayer and Yahoo! face an uphill battle, but Mayer knew that going in and Yahoo! has known for years, so one would hope they have something up their sleeves. For his part, Danny Sullivan, who knows Mayer personally, also notes the lack of any real revelations so far, but talks a little history before concluding that search might just fade as a priority for Yahoo! Time will tell what, if anything, Yahoo! replaces search with.