Yahoo's Levinsohn: We need bravado; Is that enough?

Carol Bartz brought expletives, but those F-bombs didn't translate to bravado. Yahoo has never really pulled off the bravado thing. It needs more growth.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Yahoo executive vice president Ross Levinsohn said the company is operating just fine without a permanent CEO, but does need more bravado going forward.

"We need a little bravado in our step," said Levinsohn, speaking at the PaidContent Advertising conference. "We have to get our own house in order."

Yahoo's house right now is lacking a leader. Carol Bartz was booted as Yahoo CEO last month and now rumors are swirling about private equity buyouts and even a merger with AOL. Levinsohn said that "there's nothing rational about AOL and Yahoo merging." However, AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft are talking about a premium ad exchange.

According to Levinsohn, it's business as usual at Yahoo. "We have a strong team and most people are self-sufficient and have years and years of experience," he said. "Carol allowed us to operate our business."

Levinsohn, who has been at Yahoo for about nine months, ducked a question about whether he was a candidate to replace Bartz. He added that he "had the best job at Yahoo." Like many other Yahoo executives before him, Levinsohn portrayed a company that was an underappreciated media giant. He rattled off a bevy of statistics highlighting Yahoo's scale.

Yahoo had 40 billion pages views last month, but it's a question of monetizing those pages. Uniques and time spent are up month over month and Yahoo Sports is up 60 percent from a year ago, said Levinsohn. Yahoo News has 6 billion page views with users that spend an hour a month on average. He also added that Yahoo's celebrity site, OMG, is twice as big as TMZ.

However, scale has never been Yahoo's issue. Yahoo's scale enables it to try a lot of content experiments---including an original series. The company is profitable and has a solid revenue base, but growth is elusive. Buzz is even more elusive. Meanwhile, Google captures the search revenue and is increasingly leveraging its army of algorithms in display ads.

The larger question is whether bravado is all Yahoo needs. Bartz brought expletives, but those F-bombs didn't translate to bravado. Yahoo has never really pulled off the bravado thing---it's not like co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo were ever thumping their chests.

In many respects, bravado is a function of growth. Should Yahoo start delivering better than expected earnings and revenue growth a little bravado will be warranted.


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