Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

After Ad Reorg and Seth Departure, Yahoo Likely to Get Product Team Rejiggering Next


You probably could see this one coming — given that the honeymoon part of new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s tenure at the Silicon Valley Internet giant is most definitely moving into a much more realistic phase.

Thus, here come more reorgs!

So far, new COO Henrique De Castro was first out of the gate with a dramatic overhaul of Yahoo’s advertising organization, which took place just after the new year. That included moving to a vertical category sales model; the move upended the entire ad staff, which had previously organized over regional and horizontal lines.

He left top execs Mark Ellis and Peter Foster in place, although with rejiggered jobs, and also gave Keith Kaplan a broader role over agency relationships. Apparently, De Castro has also considered dumping the Genome name from its big-data analysis software that comes out of its acquisition of Interclick.

We’ll see how it goes over with the troops, who have been summoned to a De Castro gathering of all of Yahoo’s sales force in Las Vegas next week at the Mandalay Bay Hotel there. (Send pix, Yahoo peeps!)

Next up (and perhaps no surprise), said several sources, is a shakeup of the product side of Yahoo, perhaps as soon as this week. While the exact plans are unclear, the first sign of the moves that many are expecting to take place was the sudden departure of Connections SVP Shashi Seth last week.

The exit of Seth — who had been close to Mayer when she first arrived (the pair had worked together at Google) — had actually become the subject of intense internal speculation of late at Yahoo. Therefore, the did-he-jump-or-was-he-pushed question seems to be more than a little complex here.

Still, his leaving is significant since Seth ran vast swaths of the key products at the company. That included Yahoo Mail and other communications products, its Flickr photo-sharing site, local, shopping and, perhaps most importantly given the company is now seriously reassessing its dysfunctional partnership with Microsoft, search.

In other words, Seth was at the center of important consumer-facing products and now is no longer there. And while CEO Marissa Mayer is deservedly considered a product ace — and has inserted herself into much of the recent round of refreshes of its homepage, mail and more — she also has a larger job to do.

That’s why it will be interesting to see who Mayer will put in Seth’s place. Some inside Yahoo think the job should go to a high-profile outsider with a lot of consumer experience, although there are many internal candidates who also might be tapped for the job.

Sources said other parts of the product org will also be shifted. For example, many are assuming longtime techie Scott Burke will take over a merger of all the ad tech product teams. Mayer has already brought back longtime techie Jay Rossiter to head its platform efforts, while also limiting the purview of tech and operations head David Dibble. She has also put Adam Cahan in charge of mobile and emerging products.

What remains unclear is if Yahoo product management will get this rejiggering before its earnings are announced next Monday. Wall Street will be looking closely at the fourth-quarter results — especially after a recent run-up in its stock — to glean more info about Mayer’s turnaround plans and a better understanding of the product leadership behind that will be critical.

Also of interest will be information — perhaps not forthcoming — about the state of user engagement and traffic, as well as exactly how much of its money Yahoo has spent on stock buybacks. Life, as they say, is in the details.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald