MARISSA MAYER: Here's why it never made any sense for Yahoo to buy AOL

Less than a week after AOL sold to Verizon for $US4.4 billion, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer dished on-stage at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women event about why her company didn’t merge with AOL last year.

Late least year, investors and analysts were pushing hard for a tie-up between the two companies, but Mayer says that Yahoo and AOL are doing fundamentally different things.

“While some people on the outside saw similarities between the companies, we didn’t,” she said.

Although there was some overlap in their focus on video, AOL is betting on programmatic advertising, while Yahoo is focusing on mobile, video, native advertising, and social (a strategy Mayer has dubbed “MaVeNS”). It doesn’t want to be in the business of helping other sites monetise, like AOL, she says, it wants to make Yahoo a differentiated media outlet that people love.

“It’s really important to me that we maintain a brand and a relationship with end users — that we’re not simply helping other sites monetise,” she says, “That we’re actually providing services to end users that they really value, and that they continue to turn to Yahoo to inform, connect, and entertain.”

To help it achieve that goal, Yahoo has nabbed expensive talent like Katie Couric and David Pogue, the former for a reported salary of more than $US5 million a year. Mayer mentioned on stage that the investment in Couric is already profitable, countering a recent Wall Street Journal report that, based on her total video views and standard ad rates, only half her salary had been paid for by April.

Overall, Mayer’s explanation is actually a much kinder analysis of the potential deal between Yahoo and AOL than attributed to her in the past.

When merger rumours swirled last July, Re/code’s Kara Swisher reported that Mayer told a number of people that she thought such a deal would be “small, unexciting, uninspiring and backward-looking.”

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