News Column

Yahoo's Mayer Says Mobile Will Be Top Priority

Oct. 23, 2012

Brandon Bailey, San Jose Mercury News

Mobile

Delivering her first earnings report since taking the top job at Yahoo (YHOO), CEO Marissa Mayer on Monday announced modest gains in financial performance last quarter, while promising a major new focus on the mobile Internet in the future.

"I came to Yahoo to grow and help redefine one of the Internet's most beloved companies," Mayer said during a conference call with investment analysts, adding that her top priority is developing "a focused, coherent mobile strategy."

"At some point at least half our technical workforce should be working on mobile," Mayer said later about the Sunnyvale company's 12,000 employees, "because Yahoo should be a predominantly mobile company."

Mayer spoke as the company reported revenue and earnings that modestly beat Wall Street expectations for the quarter that ended in September, her first since taking the helm of the troubled Internet giant. In her remarks, the former longtime Google (GOOG) executive gave the most extensive view of her plans that she has offered publicly since she was hired as CEO in July.

Mayer's remarks were generally well

received by analysts and Yahoo's stock rose 4.5 percent in after hours trading.

Although she's hired several senior executives from outside the company, Mayer said she's not looking at a major reorganization or large-scale acquisition to change Yahoo's focus. She added, however, that she's looking at ways to improve efficiency and better "align" the company with her priorities.

Mayer cited several recent moves that she said would improve employee productivity -- including free food, new smartphones for workers and new performance measures to increase accountability.

She also listed some ways in which she said Yahoo can improve both its search and display advertising business, although she avoided offering specific financial targets or forecasts.

Yahoo currently uses Microsoft's search engine on its own websites, while sharing revenue from search ads. Without backing away from that partnership, which is set to expire next year, Mayer said she believes Yahoo can tweak the way customers interact with the search engine and offer related services to drive up ad revenue.

Perhaps most important, Mayer said she wants to link Yahoo's future with the boom in mobile Internet technology, as more people use smartphones and tablets rather than desktop computers to surf the web, make purchases and share information.

"Yahoo hasn't capitalized on the mobile opportunity," she added, saying the company has not done a good job of promoting or coordinating its current mobile offerings.

Mayer said Yahoo should be able to build on the popularity of its websites that are dedicated to such topics as sports, finance and entertainment, along with its email and photo-sharing services. Those coincide with the things that people use mobile devices to check -- as a "daily habit," she said more than once.

Other big Internet companies such as Google and Facebook are also grappling with the mobile trend. But Google and Facebook have continued to grow while Yahoo has seen its revenue decline in recent years, as advertisers have shifted spending to those Internet rivals.

Yahoo has seen some minor financial improvement this year. The company reported $1.2 billion in revenue, or $1.09 billion after subtracting commissions paid to advertising partners, for the quarter that ended in September. That was up 2 percent from the same period a year ago.

Net income for the quarter soared to $3.2 billion, thanks to a recorded gain of $2.8 billion from the sale of its stake in Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce site. Earnings amounted to 35 cents a share, after subtracting one-time items.

But many on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley were less interested in hearing Yahoo's recent performance and more concerned about the new CEO's plans.

"I thought she did a pretty good job of articulating her strategy," said Herman Leung, who tracks Internet companies for Susquehanna Investment Group, although he added that Mayer's mobile plans "will take some time and effort."

Wedge Partners investment analyst Martin Pyykkonen said he gave Mayer "an A-minus. She was efficient and precise. You felt like this was someone who is not going to let opportunities pass by."

The 37-year-old Mayer made some other news Monday: After giving birth to a baby boy last month -- and taking only two weeks' maternity leave -- she told a columnist for Fortune that she and her husband have named their son Macallister.



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Source: (c) 2012 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)