Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

What Should Yahoo Do: Sue Decker's Listening Tour

Now that I have gotten back from a dusty vacation, I can return to my obsessive quest to figure out what Yahoo should do to improve its prospects pronto.

I noted a few weeks ago here that is was time to stop with all the recriminations related to its management turmoil and try to look at what Yahoo needs to get itself back on track. A lot of readers made great suggestions here.

But with its stock still in the tank awaiting what is widely expected to be a tough second quarter earnings call a week from tomorrow, all eyes are going to be on dramatic moves the company can make to turn itself around under the spanking new–yet obviously old, since they have been there the whole time–leadership of co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang and President Sue Decker.

So far, people seem excited by Yang’s roll-up-the-sleeves approach and think he is serious about remaining in the job longer than many, including yours truly, think he will.

“Jerry has a lot of good will,” said one top executive, who noted that Yang has the important tech credibility former CEO Terry Semel was lacking. “People want inspiration and a feeling like things are going to change here, other than another exec getting whacked.”

decker

Indeed, Decker (left) is certainly looking for solutions, according to sources, spending a lot of time over the past weeks debriefing carefully selected top executives and those below them on their concerns and also eliciting their thoughts on what needs to be done at Yahoo, including how to better organize its ranks (again!).

Those who have talked to her say she has been thoughtful and willing to listen to feedback, which has not always been the case at the tippy top of the company.

But that also does not mean the whacking is over. Yang and Decker’s willingness to toss ad sales head Wenda Harris Millard over the side without a lot of pleasantries (we know, we know, Millard could be stubborn about newfangled ad forms and her brusque New York style was not cutting it anymore, but their Silicon Valley shiv-in-the-back move was truly breathtaking) in the first week on the job was seen as a warning shot to others about who was in charge.

And let’s be clear, that management shakeout might not be over quite yet, as executive musical chairs at Yahoo continues.

schneider

On the upswing, said several sources, is Hilary Schneider, pictured here, the sharp ex-Knight Ridder exec who came to Yahoo last fall and keeps getting more important duties. She is now executive vice president of Local Markets & Commerce Division and Yahoo! Publisher Network, which is a fancy way of saying she has a lot of important revenue businesses under her.

bradg

Another exec to look out for is Brad “Peanut Butter Manifesto” Garlinghouse, pictured here, whose memo on the many internal problems of Yahoo revealed last year was the spark for a lot of the current wildfire of change. While some think Garlinghouse was simply stating the obvious and that management was already working on its issues, others think giving him a wider role would be an interesting move.

Jeff Weiner

Both Schneider and Garlinghouse might get increased duties, which could be a slight to current Network head Jeff Weiner, pictured right, who came to Yahoo with Semel and who many predict will eventually chafe under a more rigorous leadership from Decker.

Some blame Weiner for the slowness in getting the new Panama ad system in place, which is not really fair to load it all up on his plate given he got the clean-up job of Yahoo’s Overture acquisition late in the game and higher execs probably deserve the blame for the critical delay in allowing it to run separately for so long and not integrating it to battle Google more effectively.

But now that it is on track he might be looking to leave on a high note, and he obviously has a lot of outside choices where he can have more freedom.

In any case, I had an interesting short discussion with Weiner in this video post about 10 days ago and he still seemed excited by the changes at Yahoo.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus