Audience Guru Candidates?
So who is in the running to be Audience Guru, aka the head of the Audience Group at Yahoo?
Could it be Anne Sweeney, the co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, whose name constantly pops up in Silicon Valley chatter about the job? The position–which will oversee vast swatches of Yahoo’s consumer-product area, like search, news, information and communications products, as well as international and mobile–would not be a bad choice for Yahoo, given her big media chops and also her record with ABC’s Web initiatives.
She was deeply involved in the move to sell episodes of ABC shows on Apple’s iTunes store (where its “Lost” is the biggest seller) and also the streaming of shows on its Web site. (Using its terrific player, I caught up on all the “Ugly Betty” shows I missed last night and even dipped into the turmoils of the sad-sack Los Angeles yuppies of “What About Brian,” so count me a fan.)
Sweeney also gave two of the best quotes ever from a traditional media exec at a conference late last year. On piracy: “We understand now that piracy is a business model,” said Sweeney. “Pirates compete the same way we do–through quality, price and availability. We don’t like the model, but we realize it’s competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward.” And, my favorite, on consumer empowerment via technology: “All of us have to continually renew our business in order to renew our brands, because audiences have the upper hand and show no sign of giving it back.”
No, they do not and, to revive Yahoo, top execs have to tattoo that mantra on their backsides.
By way of background, there is a still-open position to lead the recently formed division at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company. Late last year, Yahoo reshuffled its management (and jettisoned some). The result was a split of the company into three groups–one tech group headed by CTO Farzad Nazem, the Advertiser and Publisher Group under CFO Sue Decker and an unknown executive to lead its key product consumer areas in search, communications, communities and media in the Audience Group. While Decker is the favorite to eventually replace Chairman and CEO Terry Semel, the Audience Group head would also be a presumable candidate.
Some thought Jeff Weiner, whose title is executive vice president of the network division, would get the nod then and even now, given that his job includes the “consumer-facing” products like communications (email, IM), community (Groups, 360, Flickr, Bix), media (news and information and entertainment), search (Web, Answers, Del.icio.us) and the front door of the whole place. But Weiner’s ascension has not happened, and sources say that makes it unlikely (though not out of the question). Well-liked internally, the hard-working Weiner would be an excellent choice, as would some others inside Yahoo. In any case, the search has been dragging on now five months.
Other people that people mention for the job: Former Cisco exec Mike Volpi and former AOL programming exec Jim Bankoff.
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