Monday, July 16, 2012

Who's taking bigger risk, Yahoo or Marissa Mayer?

In a gutsy move, Yahoo! today appointed Marissa Mayer from Google as its next CEO.  Choosing a product-centric person with engineering background to lead Yahoo! was a big surprise.  It is a bigger surprise that Marissa took the job after 13 years of tenure at Google.

It was just about 4 months ago when Yahoo! filed a lawsuit against Facebook in its desperate attempt to generate cash from its stock pile of patents.  Now with Marissa Mayer at the helm, the image of Yahoo! cannot be any more different than what it used to be.  Mayer, a well respected engineer-turned product person, will bring a new energy to ailing Yahoo!

I hope that Mayer will be successful in her new role.  I am quite a bit biased in that regard.  Because she has engineering background and has been playing product management role with her own perspective on aesthetics, I feel like I can relate to her approach.  Definitely compared to past Yahoo! CEOs, I think she is the CEO that I want to see to succeed the most.

But she's got a big job cut out for her.  Yahoo! is a different company than Google.  Everything about it is different from Google.  The way product is designed to its target audience.  While Google caters to geeky tech savvy users, Yahoo! is a brand that focuses on less technical users.

When you compare Google News page with Yahoo! News page, this becomes obvious:

Is Yahoo! intentionally underplaying its new CEO appointment?
Or does it simply have different audience than Google?

What's interesting is that Yahoo! News does not even show its new CEO appointment as top news.  I had to scroll a couple of pages below the fold to see the news on Yahoo! News front page.  That is not to mention the difference in design aesthetics between the two company's pages.

Mayer's challenge will be to understand different user demographics and chart out how to morph the product to leverage its strength while branching out to new user segments.  And doing all these without sacrificing Yahoo!'s brand and its design.  It's a tall challenge.  Big enough to attract one of the most capable leader in the industry.

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