Kara Swisher

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Exclusive: Former Yahoo Scott Moore Heads Back to Microsoft As U.S. Content Head


In an unusual homecoming and odd job switcheroo between two Internet execs, former Yahoo media head Scott Moore is returning to Microsoft to lead its U.S. content efforts, according to many sources both inside and outside the company.

Moore (pictured here) will become U.S. executive producer, responsible for leading the content and programming strategy for the MSN online service. He will return to Microsoft’s Seattle area HQ in mid-March and report to Greg Nelson, GM of the MSN Global Media Group.

Microsoft (MSFT) declined comment about Moore’s new job, but sources said news of the appointment will be officially announced Monday.

But a memo about Moore’s new gig went out internally to some of the MSN staff earlier today, sources said. In fact, the return of Moore had been widely rumored inside Microsoft, even though there were several other internal and external candidates considered–including another former Yahoo, one source said–for the job.

Moore left Yahoo (YHOO), which was first reported here, last November due to unhappiness over the turmoil at the company and also to pursue a start-up idea he had about a local news site.

Moore even talked about the idea on the record with BoomTown (see video below), just as he was leaving Yahoo’s Santa Monica-based Media Group. Since he left Yahoo for good in December, Moore has been working on his start-up plans and took time off to go on a safari trip to Africa.

(Here’s a link to Moore’s Africa photos, in fact, which are quite good.)

But with the economic downturn making it harder for new start-ups to get funded on good terms, a desire to be back in the Seattle area, where his children live, and a new effort by MSN to compete better in the content business with top-ranked Yahoo, sources said Moore felt the powerful job at Microsoft would be a terrific challenge.

In what is a case of Web exec musical chairs, Moore had previously been replaced at Yahoo–in a rushed appointment–by Jeff Dossett. Dossett came to Yahoo from, wait for it, Microsoft, where he had held the job Moore is now taking.

In that move, also first reported here, Dossett was given a different title at Yahoo than Moore, as SVP of the U.S. Audience Group (Moore was SVP of the Media Group at Yahoo).

When he first started talking to Yahoo, Dossett (pictured here) was actually up for a job to run business development for Yahoo. But Moore’s sudden decision to leave had his boss, Yahoo’s EVP of U.S., Hilary Schneider, scrambling to fill the post. Dossett’s experience at MSN made him the obvious choice.

Now Moore’s appointment puts the pair in head-to-head competitive positions in the online content business, a clash that has been consistently won by Moore, when he had Dossett’s job at Yahoo and Dossett had Moore’s job at MSN.

Moore should also be comfortable at Microsoft and move into his job more easily. Previous to coming to Yahoo in mid-2005, he was president of MSNBC.com and publisher of Slate.com. He had worked at Microsoft for a decade.

Moore will oversee Microsoft’s involvement in the MSNBC.com joint venture again, along with all of Microsoft’s domestic content programming, which makes up a bulk of its efforts in the area.

And with Moore back on board, how MSN will better compete with the content juggernaut Yahoo is–due to Moore’s efforts, in part, and one of the troubled company’s stronger units–will be interesting.

That’s because Yahoo’s news, finance, sports and other properties typically rank as No. 1 online by far.

Time Warner (TWX) online unit AOL has also tried recently to improve its content offerings and has gotten some traction. It recently upped the ante with its new MediaGlow online studio effort of niche blog sites.

At the very back of this pack, Microsoft has made innumerable efforts in the content space over the years, mostly unsuccessful–Underwire!, Mungo Park!–and has settled more into the aggregation model.

But it still has a lot of interesting original content efforts under way, such as an unnamed celebrity-focused site property it is reportedly launching within the next week with former Yahoo media exec–and Moore’s former boss–Lloyd Braun.

Ironically, Moore launched a Yahoo celebrity site, omg!, initially pushed by Braun when he was at Yahoo, which has been successful.

Here is the video interview I did with Moore at his Yahoo going-away party about his future plans. Below that is another one I did when he was czar of Yahoo content, in which he talked extensively about the future of content on the Web.

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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo