(Disclosure: the author of this post wrote both.)
The Times story points out an interesting contradiction in Mayer.
When it comes to making technology products, Mayer is obsessed with backing-up her decision with data and metrics. But when it comes to staffing up Yahoo’s various media properties, she tends to go with her gut.
Sometimes, this leads to odd decisions — including one regarding actress and popular cookbook author Gwyneth Paltrow, and another about former CBS News anchor Katie Couric.
Reared in Google’s data-obsessed culture, Mayer tended to require countless tests about user preferences before making an important product decision. But when it came to media strategy, she seemed perfectly comfortable going with her gut. As a teenager in Wisconsin, she grew up sneaking into the living room to watch “Saturday Night Live” and occasionally recited sketches during meetings; in April 2013, Yahoo paid an estimated $US10 million per year for the “S.N.L.” archives. Even though the actress Gwyneth Paltrow had created a best-selling cookbook and popular lifestyle blog, Mayer, who habitually asked deputies where they attended college, balked at hiring her as a contributing editor for Yahoo Food. According to one executive, Mayer disapproved of the fact that Paltrow did not graduate college.
Over the summer, Mayer greenlighted a plan to hire Katie Couric, the former anchor of “CBS Evening News” and former co-host of the “Today” show. As was the case with de Castro, Couric put the idea in Mayer’s head herself after the two shared a stage at an advertising event in the Turks and Caicos. Couric, who was then hosting a failing daytime talk show on ABC, told Mayer she wanted to do something big for Yahoo. Couric had previously worked with the company to produce a video series, “Katie’s Take,” in which she interviewed experts on topics like health and parenting. Despite Couric’s star power, users didn’t click on her videos, no matter how prominently editors positioned them on the page. Mayer ignored those metrics, and in mid-2013, she named Couric Yahoo’s “global anchor” in a deal worth more than $US5 million a year.
A year later, the Times reports that Couric is unhappy with how little exposure her videos are getting. Yahoo Food, meanwhile, ranks twelfth in its market.