More Unsolicited Advice For Marissa Mayer
Back in 2008, I wrote a column outlining 10 things I’d do if I were running Yahoo. As it turns out, four of my wish list items came to be -- but the company’s no better off than when I wrote them, so I guess that means I wasn’t qualified to be Yahoo CEO.
Besides, even if I were the right person for the job, I’m not sure my LinkedIn profile would meet the documentation requirements that are surely part of Yahoo’s recruiting due diligence these days. You see, under Honors, I’ve listed the very prestigious Solomon Schechter Day School Fourth Grade Record for the One Mile Run, but have no tangible proof of said achievement. While I can assure you this was no “resume blunder,” I don’t have the proper documentation and I can’t imagine Mrs. Starr still remembers my race time.
Therefore, I shall throw my support behind Mayer and arm-chair quarterback her tenure as CEO, starting with these five suggestions:
1. Keep the Search Alliance with Microsoft. In my 2008 column, I said that, as Yahoo CEO, I’d “tear up the Google syndication deal” because “the search ad marketplace needs vibrant competition.” Indeed, Carol Bartz followed through on this and struck the alliance with Microsoft. Fortunately for Yahoo, this deal included revenue guarantees, as adCenter has yet to meet minimum revenue per search requirements. Danny Sullivan has a good recap of this saga on Search Engine Land, ending in speculation that Mayer will cancel the Microsoft deal in favor of a Google partnership.
For all the same reasons I opposed a Google search deal for Yahoo in 2008, I oppose it in 2012. If Google were to gain an even more dominant global marketshare, it would inevitably lead to increased costs for advertisers. For one thing, we’d see increased competition in keyword bid auctions as advertisers dump even more money into AdWords. For another, Google would be emboldened to roll out further paid inclusion programs, forcing advertisers to pay for traffic that previously could be obtained through unpaid organic listings.
That said, Yahoo can’t just roll over on search. It’s not like I’m counting or anything, but Yahoo has lost search share in the U.S. in each of the last 10 months and now sits at a measly 13% overall. Forgetting the monetization aspect (which is propped up for now by the Microsoft guarantee), Yahoo needs people to use its search functionality if it wants to maintain its overall site traffic. As Google favors its own properties in search results, each person who leaves Yahoo to search on Google is less likely to find and return to Yahoo content. This puts Yahoo’s primary source of revenue (display advertising) at risk.
2. Double down on display. Despite assembling a portfolio of best-in-class display assets over the years -- including Right Media, Dapper, and interclick -- Yahoo’s display business was up just 1% year-over-year in Q2, and down 4% in both Q1 and Q4.
Yahoo’s new Genome platform for audience buying is a very robust solution, but will require continued investment to achieve its potential and have a material impact on the bottom line. I have full faith that Peter Foster, Yahoo’s GM of audience and performance advertising, will deliver on the “holistic combination of data inputs, premium supply and actionable analytics that can help marketers achieve their objectives from the top to the bottom of the funnel" -- but not without a sizable budget for further product development and retention of top sales talent.
3. Organize around mobile. U.S. mobile ad spend is going to double in 2012 and is poised to “dominate the future of media and advertising.” Yahoo must make a bold play in mobile. This includes creating new content, functionality and apps that are native to mobile devices. This also includes innovation in mobile ad technology lest Yahoo have its mobile apps, er, lunch, eaten by the likes of the Rubicon Project.
5. Ignore this column. Marissa, please ban this column and every other one like it that’s been written (especially those related to your pregnancy!) from your index. Well, not literally, as I’m sure MediaPost would not appreciate that. But I urge you to tune out the backseat drivers and blaze your trail. Only you know what’s best for you, and only you can decide what’s best for Yahoo now. I look forward to revisiting this column in four years and seeing how much of my advice you ignored. Meanwhile, I’ll be tracking down my fourth grade classmates to serve as professional references on the off chance your job opens up again.