New Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has not yet told employees what kind of company she wants to turn Big Purple into. She hasn’t held an all-hands and she’s only sent a vaguely worded memo.
We have plenty of clues to help us figure out what her priorities will be at Yahoo.
Clue: Yahoo’s board hired Mayer because she is a “products” whiz. Under her, Yahoo must build software – for the Web, for mobile, for anywhere – that consumers will want or need to use at least once a day.
Clue: A source close to Mayer believes she will focus on Yahoo products that already have massive reach: Mail, Sports, News and Finance.
Clue: At Google, Mayer tried to buy Digg and Yelp. She successfully bought Zagat. Mayer also led development of the highly-customisable Google News.
Clue: Also at Google, Mayer led development of Gmail.
Clue: Mayer is an active Instagram and Twitter user. She follows a bunch of people on Pinterest.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN: Yahoo hired Mayer to be a “products” CEO, not a media deals-maker like interim CEO Ross Levinsohn would have been if he had gotten the job.
But that doesn’t mean Mayer is going to run away from content or media. She actually ran toward media at Google, developing Google News, trying to buy Digg and Yelp, and successfully acquiring Zagat.
Expect Mayer to bring the modern aspects of those media properties to Yahoo. Look for more gamiifcation, user-generated content, and personalisation, in particular. We expect her to polish up Yahoo Sports’ long-neglected fantasy offerings, especially on mobile. The Yahoo Finance app needs to become a portable Bloomberg terminal.
We don’t expect Mayer to bring her Google Maps and Google search expertise to bear at Yahoo, because the company is so far gone in those fields. We do expect her to bring her knowledge of Gmail to Yahoo Mail, since Yahoo’s Web-based mail remains the company’s most important source of user-engagement.
But, long term, Web-based email is a dying product category. People check their email on their phones, through native apps.
So Yahoo will need to build new communications products. Mayer’s active use of Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest suggest Yahoo will build (or buy) a social, mobile app, built on lightweight content from users who connect to each other through an asymmetrical follower/friending system. Facebook owns Instagram and Twitter is too expensive, but maybe Mayer will make a push to buy Pinterest for a couple billion. Maybe we’re talking about Flickr 2.0.