Yesterday, some folks here at CNET Networks asked if I had anything to say about Jerry Yang replacing Terry Semel as CEO at Yahoo. Yahoo's media relations site lists Yang as co-founder and "Chief Yahoo!." I couldn't think of anything to say that hadn't already been said. But then National Public Radio called me this morning and asked the same question and it caused me to think about this move in the same way that I saw Michael Dell's reassumption of the CEO post at Dell from Kevin Rollins (see The problem at Dell wasn't the CEO. It's the commodity R&D). Dell was chairman of the company. If the company needed a course correction, it's not like he didn't know who to call.
On Yahoo's bio for Jerry Yang, I spotted the following text:
A member of Yahoo!'s board of directors, Mr. Yang works closely with the company's CEO and executive team to develop corporate business strategies and guide the future direction of the company.
"Guide the future direction of the company." Wondering whether anything much had really changed, I read that text to Marketplace's Janet Babin who repeated it this morning on NPR's Day to Day show. Babin also drew attention to the consensus analysis that has identified Yang as much more of a technologist than the media and Hollywood savvy Semel -- one who can more naturally marshal the innovators within the company towards a tech-driven vision. One stat she mentioned that I wasn't aware of (listen to the audio): Google makes more money in one quarter than Yahoo makes in a year. The good news for Yahoo (while it retrenches to take on Google) is, like Coca Cola vs. Pepsi, there are worse things than being #2. Like being #3.