When Yahoo hired Marissa Mayer to be its CEO in July 2012,it was because she is considered a technology product genius.
The hope was that she would save the company by fixing its current stable of products and come up with some new ones — the next Pinterest, Snapchat, or Instagram.
Mayer was not hired for her ability to turn Yahoo into a successful media company built around original and licensed content.
In fact, the Yahoo board specifically hired over a CEO candidate that could have done such a thing very well: Ross Levinsohn.
So, it was very interesting to see the news today that Yahoo has hired New York Times tech columnist David Pogue and his team of videographers and editors and such to build a new consumer-tech site.
For a while, people thought Mayer wanted to fire all of Yahoo’s content producers, and turn the whole thing into a bunch of Tumblrs — platforms for user-generated content.
It’s smart. Pogue’s videos will be very popular on the Yahoo front page. Because those videos are about gadgets that only medium-rich people can afford, Yahoo will be able to sell the ads that run against them for very high prices.
Thanks to Yahoo’s investment in Chinese Internet company, Alibaba, Mayer will soon have many more billions of dollars to spend trying to restart the company’s revenue growth. Hiring more popular, easy-to-monetise content producers like Pogue would be a good way to spend some moderate-sized chunk of that money.
It’s true: After 13 years at the New York Times, I’ve accepted a new job.
Leaving The Times is a big deal. My years there coincided with the explosion of just about everything important in today’s tech — the Web, social media, e-books, smartphones, tablets, duck-faced selfies. It’s been an amazing ride.
It’s not easy leaving the Times, especially when you admire it as much as I do. No matter what happens to prose on paper, the Times itself, as a gatherer and curator of news, will always be necessary and important. The culture may be changing, and the readership may be shifting, but this paper steadfastly focuses on responsible journalism, irconclad ethics and superb writing. I’ll always be a loyal ally.
I learned so much, personally and professionally, from the four editors who guided me over the years,: Jim Gorman, Kevin McKenna, Damon Darlin and Suzanne Spector. And their bosses. And the Web and video producers who’ve encouraged me to infuse my sophomoric humour into everything I do. (Remember the Pogueomatic?)
But 13 years is a long time to stay in one place; we all thrive on new experiences. So I was intrigued when Yahoo invited me to help build a new consumer-tech site.
Actually, “site” doesn’t even cover it. I’ll be writing columns and blog posts each week, of course, and making my goofy videos. But my team and I have much bigger plans, too, for all kinds of online and real-world creations.
Now, listen: I realise that Yahoo is an underdog. I’ve given them a few swift kicks myself over the years.
But over the last few months, as I’ve pondered this offer, I’ve visited Yahoo headquarters. I’ve spent a lot of time with its executives. And what I found surprised me.
This is a company that’s young, revitalized, aggressive — and, under Marissa Mayer’s leadership, razor-focused, for the first time in years. Since she took over a year ago, Yahoo has regained its position as the #1 most visited Web site on earth. She’s overseen brilliant overhauls of several Yahoo sites and apps, and had the courage to shut down the derelict ones.
Above all, she’s created a “try stuff” atmosphere. She calls Yahoo “the world’s biggest startup.” People can really make a difference there. Yahoo is getting 12,000 résumés a week from would-be employees. Clearly, underdog status can be an incredibly motivating force. And for people who like to create cool new stuff — I’m among them — working to build the new Yahoo is a very attractive proposition.
So I’ll be starting there in a few weeks. (I’ll still keep up my NOVA specials on PBS, my “CBS Sunday Morning” stories, my Missing Manual books, and my Scientific American column.)
I hope you’ll join me there. We’ve got some amazing stuff up our sleeves!
Nicholas Carlson is the author of “The Truth About Marissa Mayer: An Unauthorised Biography.“
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