Five challenges for Yahoo's new CEO Marissa Mayer

Five challenges for Yahoo's new CEO Marissa Mayer

Summary: Google's Marissa Mayer is the latest Silicon Valley exec tapped to lead Yahoo. Suffice to say it won't be easy.


Google's Marissa Mayer has been hired as the next chief executive officer of Yahoo, following a revolving door of leaders that have come and gone quickly throughout the last few years.

See also: CNET: Google's Marissa Mayer becomes Yahoo CEO

Mayer has been serving as vice president of Local, Maps & Location Services. However, even though she has been with the Mountain View, Calif.-based enterprise since 1999 when she joined as Google's 20th employee,  The New York Times reports that she wasn't on track to be elevated to a C-level executive.

Taking that into account, it wouldn't be a surprise that Mayer was looking to move up elsewhere.

While it is a major milestone for her career (not to mention she's joining a growing list of female CEOs at Silicon Valley powerhouses), Mayer is defintiely going to hit the ground running at Yahoo. She starts Tuesday.

When Scott Thompson stepped into the CEO role at Yahoo earlier this year, ZDNet's Larry Dignan outlined five big challenges that Thompson would have to address.

Given Thompson's rather scandal-ridden departure over his resume just a few months later, the challenges at Yahoo have not changed -- with the exception that they might be worse.

Here's what has been left on the plate for Mayer to address:

  1. Relevance: Yahoo has fallen behind in search, but it keeps trying to play up the digital media company angle. One of these needs to grow in order to make Yahoo relevant to the general public again.
  2. Innovation: As an executive coming in from Google, the pressure is going to be on for Mayer to apply whatever she's learned with the Internet giant and apply it in a whole new way for Yahoo's benefit. Given Google's reputation for thinking outside the box and resolving big problems in simple ways (most of the time), let's hope she can bring some of that magic to Yahoo.
  3. Definition: This ties in with relevance, but Yahoo needs to rebrand itself. Originally a search giant itself, even a partnership with Microsoft's Bing hasn't really dented Google's market share. Based on comScore figures from June, it looks like only Bing is getting anything out of this dea. Mayer is going to need to rework how the Bing deal could benefit Yahoo -- or just move on to the digital media angle entirely.
  4. Content: Yahoo has been stepping it up with original digital media content, but perhaps the Cupertino, Calif.-based company should ramp up its entertainment partnerships to really get this moving along and feed content in more quickly.
  5. Morale: The only major tech companies where morale might be lower would be RIM and AOL. Yahoo, however, still has a lot more potential to turn itself around. However, Yahoo has gone through a handful of CEOs in the last few years, and the last three (Jerry Yang, Carol Bartz, and Thompson) have all left on uneasy terms, to say the least. Is the Yahoo CEO job cursed? Unlikely...unless you believe in that sort of thing.

Mayer commented lightly in prepared remarks about her future gig, "Yahoo!’s products will continue to enhance our partnerships with advertisers, technology and media companies, while inspiring and delighting our users. There is a lot to do and I can’t wait to get started."

You can say that again.

Topics: Tech Industry, Google

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  • Yahoo is officially doomed!

    Has Ms. Mayer demonstrated the slightest capacity to execute on a multi-billion dollar company level? No.

    The people who know her best won't promote her to a C-level. So why should Yahoo? They're scrambling and their board is clueless.

    Short 'em, Danno!
    R Harris
    • So Google is believes in the "glass ceiling" for females?

      Ms. Mayer is responsible for many great aspects of Google's past. From the minimalistic Google search page (that is now a cluster of ugliness) to GMail, she has shown some great insight into how to attract traffic to a web-site.

      She was offered a very hard challenge (and given Google getting more boring of late), it does not surprise me she jumped on the opportunity. Yahoo really needs someone with serious talent at the helm and she has a track history to prove it.

      I wish her luck.
    • And she just announced she's pregnent

      so how long before she's off for maternaty leave?

      Whatever she's going to do she'll have to do it sooner then later, though Heaven help anyone who says the wrong thing in about 7-8 months from now! :)
      William Farrel
  • Yeah

    A pretty face and a talent for repeating all the trendy words will not take you far if what the company actually needs is new, and I mean really new and original, ideas.

    I see dark times ahead for Yahoo.
  • 5 trite corporate buzzwords

    But it's hard to find innovation in a system that increasingly automates, since there will be little left to innovate on... ;-)
  • Option this

    Well, the good news is, she took the job for fun. If she was the 20th employee at Google, she doesn't need money.

    Oh, I looked it up: she's worth $300 million.
    Robert Hahn
    • Worth 300MM?

      Maybe she made the Yahoo Board an offer to work for $1 a year.
      Tired Tech
    • pfffft

      If I were her I would be focusing on the tan lines between my toes; she has done her time and doesn't need to prove anything to anyone.
      • If you were her?

        If you were her she wouldn't be worth $300 million. She'd have quit years ago.
  • Change is good - give her a chance...

    You know after working in this valley for 35 years I see constant derision and people being torn down for what reason I don't know. After the departure of Thompson, and the whole hoo-ha with the board seat fight, maybe, just maybe we should see if the vetting process that this young woman had to undergo proves positive. Just because she wasn't elevated t a C-Level position at Google doesn't mean she can come in and provide the leadership and guidance Yahoo needs.

    Maybe she too will fail or not, hopefully not it would be s shame to see yahoo completely disintegrate, new blood, a fresh set of ideas, you have believe that Ms. Mayer had to have thought long and hard about this change, why not provide some encouragement and thoughtful ideas on how she might be successful first? I don't know I am so tired of the insane level of negativity I for one wish her every success and all of you should do the same. What have you got to loose?
  • Not To Knock Ms. Mayer

    Yahoo board has shown itself once again to be utterly useless. Ms. Mayer will give her 110% and soon realize she's working with a feckless board room. Without a competent board, the CEO normally falls flat. Unfortunately for Yahoo shareholders, Jerry Yang resigned from the board four years to late.
    Tired Tech
    • Perhaps she needed a new challenge

      There are some people who thrive on the challenge of building a company or project. She may have felt she was stagnating at Google, not that this is a unique situation to her or Google.
  • I hope

    she gets rid of the video.
  • She has a hard job from the start

    The lady is taking over from some of the worst CEOs in history. Hope she is able to fix all the screw-ups that her predecessors did.

    We need Yahoo to keep competition against Google alive. Otherwise Google will have no reason to improve.
  • What can Yahoo do differently and better?

    Searching in the same way as Google and Bing will not distinguish Yahoo. That is too much "IN the box" thinking.

    In the search business there is a need for high-precision reliable query response facility. It is now possible with HyperPlex. For details e-mail I am part of Yahoo already and I want Yahooo to have the advantage of HyperPlex. That is something Ms Mayer can do.

    Best wishes,
  • I actually read "tapped" as "trapped"...

    ... in the summary :-D

    Having said that, I hope she gives serious competition to Google. We need choices in search, not monopoly.
    • Tap

      I'd tap it.
  • Add a sixth challenge.

    She's pregnant.
    • Finnish Rule

      Her children are destined to change the technological landscape, so I'll buy into whatever future company springs forth from her progeny. From some of her bio pics, I see remnants of the Linus Torvalds' smirk/snarky smile which tells me I'm right :)
      Tired Tech
  • The current trend seems to be..

    for failing companies to hire female CEOs (although IBM seems to be doing okay). I am anxiously awaiting to hear the name of the woman that will be running RIM :)