Kara Swisher

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After Declaring It the Future of Yahoo, CEO Mayer Appoints IntoNow’s Cahan to Mobile Kingpin (Internal Memo, Natch!)

Adam Cahan

A very important management shift at Yahoo got a bit lost in last week’s news of CEO Marissa Mayer’s first acquisition, a small mobile start-up called Stamped.

That would be the appointment of former IntoNow founder and CEO Adam Cahan to oversee all of Yahoo’s mobile efforts, as well as its Flickr photo sharing service.

According to an internal memo that Mayer sent out last week to employees, Cahan has been given the title of SVP of Emerging Products and Technology, with a spot on the exec staff, reporting directly to her.

Said the memo (in its entirety below):

“[Cahan] will oversee our mobile efforts, enabled screens (CTV+IntoNow), and Flickr. Adam will be responsible for building a world-class team focused on creating innovative products and experiences that inspire and delight our users worldwide.”

Mayer’s promotion of the slick exec, who has been described by almost everyone I spoke to at Yahoo as smoothly political, is an interesting internal choice by Mayer. He only got to Yahoo recently, after IntoNow was bought by Yahoo for more than $20 million in the spring of last year.

IntoNow was a spinoff from the video advertising company Auditude, which was sold to Adobe for a reported $100 million.

The television indexing start-up had launched in early 2011 as an Apple iPhone app that recognized what was playing on the screen by analyzing the audio from satellite feeds and matching it to listings. The start-up had hoped to eventually license its technology as offer-measurement services for TV advertising and viewership.

As Liz Gannes noted in a post on AllThingsD:

“It’s similar to the Shazam mobile app that many people know and love, which IDs an ambient song by recording it and quickly matching it to an archive. IntoNow users can “check in” to a particular episode once it’s been recognized, like one would check into a restaurant on Foursquare. The goal is to enable conversations around the watercooler and on social networks by helping users connect around what they’re watching and discover new things to watch.”

Cool, although IntoNow’s technology was far more compelling than its consumer promise.

Now, Cahan will be charged with doing both of Yahoo in mobile — which is most likely to be accomplished via a series of small mobile acquisitions, presumably to be stitched together into a cohesive and successful whole.

At least that’s the idea.

Cahan is an experienced exec, having worked at a number of places before founding IntoNow, including MTV Networks, NBC, McKinsey, National Geographic Television and — wait for it — Google, in business operations.

(Being an ex-Googler, which Mayer is, seems to have its advantages at Yahoo these days, with Cahan as the latest example.)

He is most definitely a key hire, because Mayer spent a lot of time stressing how mobile was Yahoo’s No. 1 priority on its recent earnings call with investors.

“Yahoo will have to be a predominantly mobile company,” she said, noting a “focused, coherent” mobile strategy was the top initiative.

Mayer had to say that, of course, even if being a mobile giant is now mostly just wishful thinking at Yahoo, since most of the many efforts the company has made in the arena have been duds. Yahoo has also lost a lot of mobile engineering talent over the years, remaining largely a desktop offering, even as the area has increasingly become where consumers are getting their information.

A blog post by Cahan at Yahoo was widely quoted when the tiny Stamped — which is an online recommendations app — was bought for under $10 million last week by Yahoo.

In it, he noted:

“Most people are always within arm’s reach of their mobile phones. For many of us, it’s the first thing we look at in the morning and the last thing we check at night. Mobile is at the center of how we connect with people, consume information, and pass the time, and we’re focused on making Yahoo! the most inspiring and entertaining way to do just that.”

We’ll see if Yahoo can be a significant mobile player, as Mayer has promised Wall Street. But Cahan has certainly been busy since he got the job, sources said, beginning with the rejiggering of Yahoo’s mobile teams, as well as visiting the Flickr office this week.

Until it all sorts itself out, please enjoy this Oct. 25 internal memo on Cahan and the Stamped acquisition:

YAHOO! PROPRIETARY AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION — DO NOT FORWARD

Hi All –

As we discussed in our strategy all-hands earlier this month, innovation and talent are essential to delivering against our vision to inspire and delight our users as a part of their daily lives. Many of the areas that require special attention are emerging technologies and Yahoo! products where we’ve not yet reinvented, re-imagined and rebuilt in order to keep pace with changes in user behaviors and platform shifts.

To aid our efforts, I’m promoting Adam Cahan to lead this effort as Senior Vice President of Emerging Products and Technology. Adam will be a member of e-staff and report directly to me. He will oversee our mobile efforts, enabled screens (CTV+IntoNow), and Flickr. Adam will be responsible for building a world-class team focused on creating innovative products and experiences that inspire and delight our users worldwide.

And he’s already making great progress! Today, we’re thrilled to announce that we’ve acquired a very talented mobile team, based in New York City.

Robby, Kevin, Bart, Paul and the entire team at Stamped are a natural fit for Yahoo!. Their experience building fun, useful, personalized mobile products aligns well with our vision to create the best everyday mobile experience for our users. The team will be a great asset for us as we expand Yahoo!’s mobile efforts and create another key center for mobile innovation in New York.

I’m excited that we’ve been able to move quickly and execute well in order to bring on such a talented team. Please join me in congratulating Adam in his promotion and welcoming Anthony, Bart, Geoff, Kevin, Landon, Michael, Paul, Robby and Travis to Yahoo!

Thanks,

Marissa


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